Shellfish farmers call for new testing regime – Fishupdate.com

Shellfish farmers call for new testing regime Published:  20 July, 2007

Doug McLeod

SCOTTISH shellfish farmers have called on the European Commission to adopt new testing regimes for shellfish health and to enforce existing regulations on coastal water purity to help their industry expand.

Replying to an EC consultation on planning a sustainable future for European aquaculture, the industry highlights its potential to provide significant numbers of jobs in remote coastal communities.

Shellfish farmers also claim that their industry is environmentally benign and provides an effective source of nutritious, high quality seafood products which can contribute to improvements in the European diet.

Doug McLeod, chairman of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers said that the consultation had come at a vital time, when a European Marine Policy is being developed and Integrated Coastal Zone Management initiatives are coming to the fore.

He said: “Molluscan shellfish production in the EU has decreased in recent years, mainly because of added environmental restrictions and legislation, but also because of more sea area closures as a result of perceived biotoxin contamination. These closures have been based on the results of health tests which we believe to be outmoded. We would like to see the introduction of chemical analytical methods for biotoxin analysis. A fundamental revision of the food hygiene regulations is required if the joint objectives of protecting human health and developing the industry are to be pursued.”

He added: “We are in the strange position, because of increasing demand for shellfish in Europe, of being dependent on imports, including some products from areas with lower environmental qualities than many European sites. We are held back by flawed testing, when imports from other countries with more polluted waters are permitted.”

The ASSG pointed out that this sector of the industry does not suffer from any negative image problems. Doug McLeod said the industry was more at risk from enforced closure based on flawed testing and the questions this might raise in consumers’ minds.

“The question of perceived health risk can be resolved by improvements in water quality through improving discharges from sewage treatment plants and reducing agricultural pollution, and modernising testing methods. We are also hampered by environmental regulations, which may be very well intentioned but are totally inappropriate for the scale at which most of our members operate. To require a prospective oyster farmer to carry out an environmental review that would strain the financial resources of a national environmental organisation is clearly inappropriate and inequitable, particularly if required on the basis of a single official’s perception of environmental impact,” said Mr McLeod.

He said that the EC should also ensure that the UK Government should enforce the Water Framework Directive which was amended to incorporate the safeguarding microbiological standards contained in the Shellfish Growing Waters Directive.

“We would also like to see an extension of the range of species currently under cultivation, and, through the development of innovative products, the creation of new market opportunities. We need a major research effort in the field of biological carrying capacity of coastal waters and loch systems and the potentially beneficial results from integrated aquaculture. The long term future for aquaculture must lie in the deeper offshore waters and that requires research into technological solutions to drift, energy impacts of waves and swells, temperature effects and plankton population dynamics to support development of the industry in future decades,” he said.

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