12/7/2016 1:18:11 PM News

Shelleye - Satellite research monitoring harmful algal bloom moves to next phase

Sentinel2 Medium

Shellfish aquaculture is rapidly becoming more recognised as a key source of protein around the world and global shellfish consumption is increasing by around 5% per year. Recent reports have highlighted mussels as the most sustainable protein source from land and sea, as they filter feed from the water they live in and require no extra food supply to thrive.

The first stage of the ShellEye project was to undertake sampling of the target areas; two buoys laden with monitoring equipment were deployed in Cornwall and research trips recorded species abundance in Scotland. This data was used to help calibrate software to “read” satellite images, provided by the European Space Agency, and detect potential occurrences of harmful algal blooms (HABs), by recognising the “optical fingerprint” of HAB species, such as Karenia mikimotoi and Pseudo-nitzschia.



When certain species bloom, they can deplete the oxygen supply in the water and/or produce toxins, which when consumed by other marine creatures such as filter-feeding mussels, can be damaging to the organism. The Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), funded scientists from Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Scottish Association For Marine Science (SAMS) and University of Exeter, through the ShellEye project, to expand the use of satellites in identifying HABs and pilot an early-warning bulletin service for target areas.

Over the last month test bulletins have been sent to partner shellfish farms in the target areas in order to test and refine the detail and design of the information provided. The bulletins will then be sent to a wider test group for a robust evaluation of the service’s ease-of-use and helpfulness. 

If you would like to help with the development of this bulletin service by providing feedback on the test bulletins or would like to receive project updates then please register your interest on the ShellEye website or email the ShellEye team >>.