In a Western Australian first, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) scientists are using high-end technology to test for biotoxins in shellfish to support the State’s growing aquaculture industry.
DPIRD’s Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DDLS) now provide WA’s first National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited Shellfish Biotoxin tests. The tests assist WA seafood producers to meet export requirements, while helping to protect WA’s reputation as a clean and safe producer of seafood
Led by laboratory scientist Ricarda Fenske, the project is just one involving DPIRD’s scientists who are being celebrated as part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science tomorrow (11 February).
Ms Fenske said the new high-end equipment was set to test for 27 different toxins in a variety of molluscs to meet stringent international testing requirements.
“Seafood such as oysters and mussels can sometimes accumulate toxins in their flesh from the algae they eat,” Ms Fenske said.
“Testing for these toxins was not previously available in WA and seafood samples were sent interstate which took time and added to the cost for WA seafood producers.”
DDLS invested heavily in new equipment for this and future projects that will benefit WA’s aquaculture industry.
“Two methods for the quantitative measurement of 27 paralytic, amnesic and diarrhetic shellfish biotoxins in mussels, rock and akoya oysters were implemented and a range of proficiency tests carried out to establish the performance of the methods,” Ms Fenske said.
“The department has worked closely with international leaders in the field and WA producers, who provided seafood specimens to ensure our testing with the new technology was accurate.”
Ms Fenske said discussions with regulators and researchers from government departments and universities had identified the need for investigating biotoxins in other species.
“We will now look to develop testing for other aquatic biotoxins such as neurotoxins and microcystins,” she said.
As part of a market diversification priority, DPIRD has also been supporting the aquaculture industry on navigating market access requirements for WA shellfish products for markets like European Union and Singapore.
This new capability to conduct biotoxin testing will assist the WA aquaculture industry to expand into export markets and will provide greater consumer confidence in WA produce.
WA seafood producers supply around 8000 tonnes of molluscs and crustaceans annually for export which is worth more than $350 million gross value of production (GVP) to the WA economy. In 2021/22 more than $244 million in shellfish and molluscs were exported from Western Australia.
Media contacts: Megan Broad/Donna Coleman, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937