SARF013: Risk factors in shellfish harvesting areas

Start Date: 14/11/05
End Date: 13/11/07
Main Contractor(s): Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
Other Sponsor(s): Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSAS)

Project Partners/Subcontractors:
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
Professor David Kay, Aberystwyth Univeristy
A representative of the Scottish mussel industry
Glasgow Scientific Services (GSS) 


1. to identify key pollution sources and conditions that may contribute to any viral and bacterial contamination of shellfish.

2. identify critical environmental contamination triggers for shellfish production.

3. determine the relationships between measurements of faecal coliforms, E. coli and Norovirus in farmed mussels.

These objectives will contribute to the development of preventative strategies for reducing the viral and bacterial risk associated with shellfish consumption. In order to ensure the wider relevance of this project, it will be formally associated with the related Redrisk sub-project in EU Seafoodplus project (Food-CT-2004-506359), which has similar objectives. Data will be shared with the Redrisk project and methods will be similar to ensure that processes thought to be triggering contamination in Loch Etive can be compared to the other European sites being studied.


A sanitary survey using existing bacteriological and environmental data will be conducted in Loch Etive. Data will be derived from previous published and unpublished SAMS studies, from FSAS, SEPA and Scottish Water.

Sampling plans will be developed to take account of the main conditions (trigger events) responsible for microbial contamination of shellfish identified in the sanitary survey.

Shellfish samples will be analysed using the semi-quatitative TACMAN method for the presence of Norovirus and FRNA bacteriophages (by CEFAS) and faecal indicators (E. coli, faecal coliforms) (by GSS and SEPA). Environmental data will also be analysed to assess correlations. Moorings with temperature and salinity loggers will be maintained at the sampling sites for the duration of the sampling period to determine whether any contamination observed is linked to changes in water mass structure caused, for example, by prolonged rainfall.

The project duration is 24 months, with an initial period of up to 6 months full time to review available data, conduct the sanitary survey, agree the trigger events and set up the sampling protocol with the industry and, if possible, Scottish Water. Detailed sampling and analyses plans will be informed by the sanitary survey and at that point formally agreed by the project steering group (sponsors, science partners and industry). There will be ongoing liaison with CEFAS, Professor David Kay of Aberystwyth University, GSS, FSAS and SEPA over the analysis and interpretation of results.

Sampling will take place over a 12 month period and will be largely the responsibility of the industry partner - with ongoing co-ordinating and quality control input from SAMS. The initial plan is for weekly sampling of both sites for bacterial and viral contamination. This sampling regime will be supplemented by more intensive study during trigger events.

SAMS will:

  • be responsible for conducting the collation and assessment of available data on Loch Etive contributing to the Sanitary Survey (using GIS as appropriate).
  • function as the main link between with the industry partner ensuring the appropriate sample collection methods, timing, storage and transportation
  • collect and collate appropriate environmental data (e.g. surface water temperature, rainfall), discharge data (from Scottish Water) and analysis data (from SEPA, GSS and CEFAS) and undertake appropriate statistical analyses.

Through formal association with the Redrisk project and drawing upon the expertise of the project partners, SAMS will seek joint publication of the project outcomes in peer-reviewed science literature and through appropriate fora.