Phytoplankton productivity is essential for shellfish growth and commercial activity. However, some species under certain environmental conditions produce biotoxins that can accumulate in shellfish tissue and pose a potential human health risk. There is a requirement of EU member states to monitor the presence and geographical distribution of marine biotoxin-producing phytoplankton in shellfish harvesting areas on a regular basis.
To achieve this, SAMS Research Services Ltd (SRSL) receives and analyzes approximately 900 fixed seawater samples collected from around the Scottish coastline on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (Scotland). Potentially toxic phytoplankton species, including members of the genera Alexandrium, Dinophysis and Pseudo-nitzschia, are then identified using light microscopy. The results of the monitoring are used to provide an “early warning” of the presence of biotoxin-producing species in harvesting areas.
SRSL has recently been awarded accreditation to the requirements of international standard ISO17025 by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) for the toxic phytoplankton monitoring service.
SRSL has been providing this service for the FSAS since September 2005 and the award demonstrates SRSL’s ongoing commitment in ensuring the quality of its test results through the use of internal management and technical systems operating to ISO17025.