18th December

Is climate change already impacting aquaculture?

The safefood knowledge networks for biotoxins and chemical residues in food, managed by Queen’s University Belfast, are hosting a conference entitled Climate Change and Aquaculture in the Wellington Park Hotel, Belfast on May 31. This conference brings together researchers, industry and regulators from the aquaculture sector across the island of Ireland.

Evidence suggests that the impacts of climate change are, in fact, occurring now and are not just theoretical future concerns.  Aquaculture is a realistic and sustainable approach for coping with dwindling stocks and increasing demand for seafood products and is currently the fastest growing food production sector (7% annual growth).

Rise is global demand
The Irish aquaculture industry produces more than 60,000 tonnes of fish p.a., including shellfish, valued over €100m. Demand for seafood continues to rise globally and government projections suggest there is a realistic opportunity for Ireland to realise revenue of €1bn, accounting for 14,000 full time jobs by 2020.

In order to accomplish this goal it is essential that the challenges facing the aquaculture industry be addressed.  Extreme events caused by climate change will have significant direct and indirect effects on the environment, causing an air of uncertainty over future global aquatic production. Changes in meteorological conditions and rising water temperatures will pose a serious threat to aquaculture practices. Issues such as increased chemical usage to combat new pests and diseases could have wide ranging impacts on the food chain.

Dr Martin Danaher (Teagasc) will discuss the issues surrounding chemical usage and its impact upon the safety of aquaculture products in the Irish market. Additionally, the appearance of foreign, toxin-producing species, such as harmful algae and jellyfish, will pose new management challenges for those in the aquaculture industry and food legislation.

New toxins in Atlantic waters?
Our international speaker, Dr Ana Garcia Cabado (ANFACO-CECOPESCA) will address the appearance of new toxins in the Atlantic area with particular reference to impacts upon aquaculture produce. Furthermore, Dr Kirsten Dunbar (FSA) and Michaél O’Mahony (SFPA) will discuss the current status of regulation and legislation for biotoxins and chemical residues in seafood and the impact climate change will have upon these controls.

Open discussion sessions will provide delegates with the opportunity to express their own concerns in an informal environment that encourages collaboration between all sectors of the food supply chain.

In conjunction with the conference, a technical workshop for the detection of biotoxins and chemical residues in food will be held at Queens University, Belfast on June 1. This workshop will include theoretical and practical sessions covering immunological methods, spectroscopical techniques and ‘omics’ with relevance to food safety.

The conference and workshop are free for safefood network members and £50 for non-members. For free membership, go to http://safefood.ning.com/.  For further details on registration, topics, abstract submission, exhibitions and discussion groups, please see http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/SafefoodNetworks/Conference2011/.

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