Minutes of the Molluscan Shellfish Committee - 20th November 2018

  • FSAI: David Lyons (Chair), Maria Meghen
  • SFPA: Bernard O’Donovan, Brian Nolan
  • MI: Jeffrey Fisher, Conor Duffy, Sinead Keaveney, Wiebke Schmidt, Joe Silke
  • BIM: Vicky Lyons 
  • Irish Water: Valerie Hannon
  • Apologies: Dave Clarke, Trish Daly (BIM), Paul Duane (SFPA), John Harrington (ISA), Kate Harrington (IW), Paul Hickey (HSE), Terence O’Carroll (BIM), Liam O’Suilleabhán (EPA), Finian O’Sullivan (ISA), Pat Mulloy (Industry), Maeve O’Reilly (IW)

1 Minutes and matters arising from the last meeting (11th September 2018)

Action: MM to update finalise the September minutes
Update: The agreed minutes are available on the FSAI.ie/MSSC webpage.

There was a discussion on industry representation, including ISA representation. A representative of the NIFF Bivalve Working Group has agreed to attend future meetings.

JS explained that the MI has introduced an improvement to HABS in relation to sampling frequency. The current sampling frequency for each species in a production area is now used to calculate a ‘Next Sample Due Before’ date indicator for each species in a production area.

2 Standing Items

2a Shellfish Monitoring Co-ordination Update

BN reported on recent monitoring and out of range results. The sampling target for 2018 is 1682 and 1208 samples have been taken in the first three quarters. To date 3% of samples have been out or range. He noted that this is consistent with the expected average number of out of range results, based on a comparison with the previous 2 years. BN informed the meeting of the current biotoxin sampling frequency for all species and all areas. 

Sanitary Surveys

The RFT issued on eTenders for the Provision of Sanitary Surveys for ten production areas closed on the 16th November. BN provided details of the areas included on the first list of production areas. SFPA has appointed a sanitary survey co-ordinator and some preliminary shoreline have been completed. The successful tender applicant will carry out the desktop surveys.

EU US Equivalence Exercise 

BOD noted that the SFPA aims to include some areas in the sanitary survey list that would be suitable production areas for exporting live bivalves to the USA. He noted the EU US Equivalence Exercise that has been in progress for several years. It is expected that the Netherlands and Galicia in Spain will shortly be able to export to the US. Ireland has indicated that it wishes to be considered for inclusion in the reciprocal arrangements as the shellfish industry has indicated it would like to export to the US. VL noted that BIM is available to assist if needed. It was noted that following the equivalence exercise, the USA (Massachusetts and Washington States only) has recently been added to the EU Third Country shellfish import list on the publication of Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/1668.

The MI expressed concern over the possible toxin and animal health risks from imported live bivalves, noting that issues could arise with exported product from either country. CD noted a concern that the risk profile would be different and laboratories would need to carry out different analyses. BOD noted that it is likely to be a Niche value business.

Protocols and Indicators for Opening a New Fishery for Bivalve Molluscs

BN presented the new protocol document for opening a new wild fishery for bivalve molluscs which has been developed in co-operation with the MI and DAFM. A decision protocol had been in use since March 2016 but this new step by step guide to the process for opening a new wild bivalve fishery has now been developed. He noted the importance of careful fisheries resource management to ensure that the exploitation is sustainable, that over-investment is avoided and that environmental impacts are minimised.

The importance of considering live animal and food safety aspects are highlighted in the document along with guidance on calculating pressure indicators and conducting surveys. BN noted that the document provides the process to allow new wild fisheries to be classified and opened. VH queried if this will increase the number of designated shellfish areas but BN noted that these are wild fisheries and the designation of shellfish waters is under separate legislation.

2b Toxicity Summary Report

JS provided details of the recent toxicity and a summary to date for 2018 He noted that while some years have a mixed toxin profile, 2018 has had defined periods of toxicity with ASP in April, DSP from June onwards and AZP starting in August. He noted that AZP over the regulatory limit has prompted closures in Killary from August, in Castlemaine starting in October and now in Mountcharles which is unusual. 


There were PSP levels below the regulatory limit in Cork Harbour in September. JS noted that this is normally a quiet time of year for toxins but the MI is keeping an eye on levels.

JS noted that an enhanced system for changing sampling frequency has been introduced in line with the updated COP for Biotoxins (Section 4.5). When a change of sampling frequency is implemented, the MI will provide details of the risk assessment and this will be included in the SFPA email informing industry and the agencies of the new frequency. He noted that the first change of frequency under the amended system was issued this month.

VH queried if the summer drought had any impact on toxicity. JS noted that while the years 2016 -2018 had moderate toxicity, they had very different weather. He noted that if the spring bloom appears then a defined toxin profile develops over the summer. If the spring bloom doesn’t occur then very mixed toxicity can be seen for the summer months. The long term cycle of phytoplankton is probably more significant than weather patterns. WS is looking at prediction in the Primrose Project, but there is a long way to go, even for short term predictions. 

VH noted that the summer drought and high temperatures had posed multiple issues for water supply and waste water treatment systems. She noted that low flows in receiving waters may be a concern for assimilative capacity calculations. She noted the importance of future drought planning for the operation of the water systems. 

3. Biotoxin Programme

3a Report from the recent EU Reference Laboratory (RL) Marine Biotoxin Workshop

CD reported on the EU RL workshop that was attended by the NRLs. The EU RL noted the progress of the WG for Phytoplankton and a final draft code of practice for Phytoplankton monitoring will be available shortly. Joe Silke and Rafael Salas of the MI are on this WG, with Rafael participating in a smaller sub-group which has progressed the final draft. 

The EU RL requested that the NRLS to inform them on how they perform ASP scallop analysis and if they use whole scallop or solely edible parts. CD will prepare a survey to be circulated to member states to get clear information on this, as it wasn’t clear at the meeting. 

CD noted that in order to make resources available to the EU-RL for emerging issues, the PT for ASP will only be organised every two years from now. Steps are being taken to deregulate PTX, the German CA requested that EFSA carryout a review of PTX. This is delaying the change and it is hoped that they will allow the change by the commission. EURLMB were not supportive of screening methods in the past but they now are, once positive samples are tested using the official methods, MI run a Domoic acid screen as part of the lipophilic toxin method. 

A small expert WG has been set up to work on the EU COP for Marine Toxins in 2019 with the aim of having the document completed by 2020. JS noted that while a document would bring benefits, it can also cause difficulties as it is hard to harmonise when there is so much variation among toxin profiles and shellfish production across Europe.

BN noted that the bacterial and viral laboratory network has been disbanded. A Classification working group will be established through the Vigo Laboratory when a network manager has been appointed.

3b Tetrodotoxin Update

CD noted that at the EU RL/NRL workshop several MS reported on recent TTX studies following the CEFAS published work on TTX in the South coast of England. Among others, both France and Spain reported no or little TTX in shellfish tested, which was surprising considering the levels found in South coast of England. Italy did report elevated levels in the North of the Adriatic in a small number of samples tested. The low number of positive TTX samples should reduce the concern about TTX across Europe. The occurrence data will also be used to inform EFSA.

3c Biotoxins

MM thanked those who had submitted comments on the draft COP for Biotoxins. BN noted the importance of having an agreed COP in place.
Action: Attendees to submit any additional comments by the 30th of November. Update: Updated COP for Biotoxins now available on the FSAI.ie/MSSC webpage

4 Microbiology and Virus

4a Norovirus Guide

The text of the ‘Guidance Document on the Management of Norovirus in Oysters by Shellfish Producers’ was agreed and it will be made available on the FSAI website with a link from the SFPA website
Action: FSAI to make the ‘Guidance Document on the Management of Norovirus in Oysters’ document available online. Update: Norovirus Guidance now available on the FSAI.ie/MSSC webpage

4b EFSA Norovirus Oyster Baseline Survey

SK thanked the SFPA for the excellent co-operation over the two year sampling period of the baseline survey. BN agreed noting a high level of co-operation from industry also. The MI and SFPA will collaborate on the last data report & production volumes which are due to go to EFSA before the end of 2018. No feedback has been received by the MI from EFSA on the data submitted to date and it was noted that there are no follow up laboratory meetings arranged to discuss outcomes. SFPA is represented on the Data WG and that group is expected to meet in December. 

SK explained that the survey design was based on production volumes and illness data was not included. The survey will identify the levels of norovirus present in Europe and the impact that various norovirus limits will have on the industry. BN noted that Ireland had decided to sample every month whereas the EFSA survey was only based on samples every second month. 

SK noted that this is now norovirus season and she explained that this year had been an unusual year in that high norovirus concentrations were identified in August & September.

SK reported that alongside the norovirus baseline project, the MI had analysed approximately 500 samples for Hepatitis A with no positives identified. She noted that Hepatitis A is not normally found in Ireland and cases are often travel related. The MI is collaborator on the DAFM funded FOVIRA project on foodborne viruses in Ireland and that project has also not found Hepatitis A in shellfish. She noted that while norovirus is underreported as patients normally get better quickly, Hepatitis A is more serious to the patient.

5. Marine Institute 11th Shellfish Safety Science Workshop

JS noted that in the past the MI has run shellfish science workshops and also participated at the ISA shellfish conference. He noted they were opportunities to disseminate the latest scientific findings to industry and to discuss their potential impacts. More recently there have been opportunities with the rope mussel workshops and Shellfish Regional Information Events. He would like to inform industry about the findings of projects such as ALERTOXNET, PRIMROSE, the Norovirus Baseline Survey for oysters, FOVIRA and the new HABS. It was agreed that the event should be considered further. JS noted that an international speaker could be invited.
Action: 11th Shellfish Safety Science Workshop to be an agenda item at the next MSSC. Update: Shellfish Safety Science Workshop is on the agenda for the January 2019 meeting.

It was also noted that the next International Conference for Molluscan Shellfish Safety (ICMSS) will be held in Mexico in September 2019. BN noted that the SFPA will be running a series of Breakfast Information Events in 2019. 

6. Official Control Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2017/625)

DL noted that the FSAI is preparing for the changes that will come with the Official Control Regulation and a detailed review of the legislation will be undertaken early in 2019. There will be additional targeted training as needed. The MI welcomed the opportunity for more Official Control training and noted that the new Regulation includes more areas. DL noted that the FSAI is also looking at online solutions to inform agencies about the implications of the Regulation and the related acts that are currently under discussion within the EU.

7. Brexit

DL reported that the FSAI has been given sanction for 4.5 additional staff to deal with Brexit related issues. Gail Carroll has been appointed to manage the team. The next MSSC meeting will include a Brexit discussion with the FSAI CEO, Dr Pamela Byrne. JF noted that the MI has carried out a review of Brexit issues. He noted concerns in relation to fish health and fish movements. SFPA has appointed an Officer to a Brexit post and will appoint additional posts when there is more clarity on the arrangements. 

8. AOB

Shellfish Assessment Programme

VH noted that a review is being undertaken of sites that now require desktop assessments. Some sites will need to go for further assessment. There are discussions on the requirements for full assessments.

MSSC Schedule of Meetings 2019 

Action: MM to circulate proposed MSSC meeting schedule dates for 2019. Update: Draft schedule circulated on the 29/11/18. The confirmed MSSC schedule is now available on the FSAI.ie/MSSC webpage.

Last reviewed: 5/4/2019

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