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First ShellEye short-term forecasts for marine biotoxins

21 February 2017
Understanding how environmental conditions can influence the marine biotoxin conditions within a mussel farm is one aspect of the ShellEye project. The team, based at the University of Exeter, have now developed and tested their first short-term forecasts for one shellfish farm in Cornwall, UK.
Marine biotoxins are naturally occurring and can be produced by certain types of marine algae. High levels of marine biotoxins within the shellfish can lead to the closure of an aquaculture farm, whilst the farmer waits for the biotoxins to naturally wash through the shellfish. 

The ShellEye team has now developed a suite of statistical approaches for providing short-term forecasts of the biotoxin conditions. This work has benefitted from new insights in the water conditions of the project’s test site that have been provided by the ShellEye buoy and through working directly with the Shellfish farmer.

These forecasts have been trailed over the latter part of the summer in 2016, through including them in weekly water quality bulletins that were sent out to the shellfish farmer. The image below shows example forecast results for the summer, as compared with the actual results of the biotoxin sampling programme (Figure 1).

The ShellEye forecasts corrected identified the start and end of the period of high levels of biotoxins, effectively giving the farmer a 3-day advance notice of the elevated biotoxin levels and the same advance warning as they returned to low levels.