Seafood Shetland has received a grant of £ 54,328 from the Coastal Communities Fund for a cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at the early detection of harmful algal blooms. The fund, distributed by the Shetland Islands Council, is supported by Crown Estate Scotland.
Ruth Henderson is the executive director of Seafood Shetland, the trade association that represents fish processing, fish retailers and those who grow mussels in the marine environment around the Shetland Islands. She said, “We are very excited about the funding that will enable us, through our partnership with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and the NAFC Marine Center UHI, to collect critical data from a new robotic research tool that can identify phytoplankton in a water sample by simply taking your photo. The state-of-the-art technology will give us an early warning of harmful algal blooms in the water, which pose a major threat to our fin and shellfish aquaculture industry. “
Scientists from SAMS and Shetland’s NAFC Marine Center UHI will deploy the FlowCytobot system at two locations on the west coast of the Shetland Islands. Any presence and density of phytoplankton, which is most commonly associated with harmful algal blooms, is detected early.
The team is led by Professor Keith Davidson of SAMS, who said, “This is a potential game changer in the search for tools to predict harmful algal blooms.”
“The FlowCytobot uses technology similar to the facial recognition software used in security and smartphones. This will be only the fifth of its kind in Europe and the first in the UK. “
Ruth Henderson continued, “The data collected will be fed into the existing weekly risk assessment bulletins, which will summarize the current risk and provide a more informed forecast for the following week. This will be distributed directly to registered aquaculture companies, including Seafood Shetland members and interested stakeholders.
“We are particularly pleased to secure funds to support the aquaculture industry, which makes the largest contribution to the Crown Estate through its donations on sea farms.”
The Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) was launched as a UK program and funded by the UK Government to promote the economic development of UK coastal communities. It is funded from the net income generated from the shipping assets of Crown Estate Scotland.