Microbiological contamination or elevated marine biotoxin concentrations within shellfish can result in temporary closure of shellfish aquaculture harvesting, leading to financial loss for the aquaculture business and a potential reduction in consumer confidence in shellfish products.
We present a method for predicting short-term variations in shellfish concentrations of Escherichia coli and biotoxin (okadaic acid and its derivates dinophysistoxins and pectenotoxins). The approach was evaluated for 2 contrasting shellfish harvesting areas. Through a meta-data analysis and using environmental data (in situ, satellite observations and meteorological nowcasts and forecasts), key environmental drivers were identified and used to develop models to predict E. coli and biotoxin concentrations within shellfish. Models were trained and evaluated using independent datasets, and the best models were identified based on the model exhibiting the lowest root mean square error. The best biotoxin model was able to provide 1 wk forecasts with an accuracy of 86%, a 0% false positive rate and a 0% false discovery rate (n = 78 observations) when used to predict the closure of shellfish beds due to biotoxin. The best E. coli models were used to predict the European hygiene classification of the shellfish beds to an accuracy of 99% (n = 107 observations) and 98% (n = 63 observations) for a bay (St Austell Bay) and an estuary (Turnaware Bar), respectively.
This generic approach enables high accuracy short-term farm-specific forecasts, based on readily accessible environmental data and observations.