SRSL offers species-level identification and enumeration of phytoplankton by way of light microscopy.See below for details of one of SRSL's ongoing phytoplankton monitoring programmes:
- Category: Phytoplankton Monitoring
Environmental monitoring programme for the presence of toxin-producing plankton in shellfish production areas in Scotland, Food Standards Agency (FSA), 2005-2015
Phytoplankton are a primary food source for bivalve shellfish and crustaceans. Under certain conditions, some phytoplankton species may produce toxins. Although the shellfish may not be visibly affected, these toxins can accumulate in tissue and organs, and if the shellfish are then ingested by humans, they may have a subsequent negative effect on human health. Monitoring these phytoplankton species can benefit both human health and the shellfish industry, as costly harvesting can be avoided when potentially toxic species are present.
EU member states are required to monitor both the presence and geographic distribution of marine biotoxin-producing phytoplankton in shellfish harvesting areas. In Scotland, phytoplankton monitoring has been carried out by SRSL on behalf of the Food Standards Agency Scotland since September 2005.
Water samples are collected from designated shellfish growing areas around the Scottish coast and analysed, by light microscopy, for seven potentially toxic genera or species of phytoplankton. The most harmful type of phytoplankton are dinoflagellates (e.g. Alexandrium and Dinophysis), with only one genus of diatom, Pseudo-nitzschia, producing toxin.
The monitoring that SRSL undertakes for the FSA is vitally important since the Scottish shellfish production industry is an important contributor to the Scottish economy. It is dominated by mussels, with 7,199 tonnes produced in 2010, followed by 241 tonnes of Pacific oysters and 28 tonnes of Native oysters alone. Much of this aquaculture production is focussed on the West and North of the country and supports strong remote and rural communities in those areas. Shellfish production supported full-time and part-time 399 jobs in 2011. The Scottish shellfish farming industry is worth £8-10 million at first sale value (Scottish Government statistics) and is estimated to be worth over £30 million at final sale value.