Warning of Algal Toxin Events in the Northern Periphery Region (WATER)

The shellfish industry can be affected by algal blooms and toxins that some of the species produce by accumulation in the shellfish flesh.  All shellfish for human consumption are routinely tested for toxins via analysis at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) at their laboratory in Weymouth.  Results for samples from Shetland can sometimes take a week to be delivered and are referred to as the Official Control (OC) samples, which are approved by the Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSAS).  Farmers can get their own tests done at a laboratory for End Product Testing (EPT); this is to show that the farmers are monitoring their stock and can be an indication on whether to harvest.  These tests can sometimes take a few days and the farmer may wish to harvest in this time.  BioSense Laboratories in Bergen have developed rapid bioassay testing kits for algal toxins, which will achieve results in a few hours.

The aim of the project was to reduce the impact of harmful algal events on shellfish aquaculture in peripheral regions by producing models for toxic algal events in the hope that they could be predicted and so reduce the shellfish loss to local farmers.  Additional outcomes were to train local agencies (such as NAFC) and industry in the use of the rapid analysis kits provided by BioSense Laboratories.  It was hoped that this could lead to local analysis of the shellfish toxins, therefore significantly cutting costs and waiting times for the local industry.

Start Date and Duration

The project started on 1 January 2009 and finished at the end of 2011.


The lead partner was the National University of Ireland in Galway. Other partners were Marine Scotland Science, the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS), the Faroese Fisheries Laboratory, the Institute of Marine Research in Norway and Seafood Shetland. The group had regular contact with industry through the Food Standard Agencies for Scotland, Ireland and Norway, who are all members of the steering committee.

Further Information

See the Northern Periphery Programme website.