Institute of Mathematics and its Applications

Branch Lecture

Date: Tuesday 24th October 2017
Time: 6pm
Location: University of Greenwich

Peter Keen – Keen Marine Ltd
Dr Sophie Carr – Bays Consulting Ltd


The UK is an island nation and so the UK coastal zone is long compared to the land area. The coastal zone supports a high diversity of fish species, many of which are exploited in commercial and recreational fisheries. In the UK the shellfish industry exceeds £250 million per annum and is a key entry point for new fishermen into the industry. While deep-sea fishing is centred around a handful of UK ports, shellfish are landed in ports along the length and breadth of the UK.

Maintaining a viable, sustainable fishing industry for all means that the conservation and management of shellfish species is a high priority for local coastal zone managers. To support evidence based decisions, they need to know where shellfish are being sourced from so, if needed, attention and protection to specific sites can be given. Currently, it is not possible to determine with any certainty where a landed catch of shellfish were harvested. To support the policing of these resources, a scientific approach is needed to establish the origin of landed shellfish. Local, small fishing communities are rightly proud of their work and produce high quality, sustainably maintained stocks with a strong regional brand. Small fishing vessels need a cost-effective approach to unequivocally show they are harvesting sustainably.

Across the world, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is harming the oceans, depleting stocks and adversely affecting local fishing communities. To support the evidence based decisions taken by coastal zone managers and those working in IUU fishing, as well small coastal fishing communities, Keen Marine and Bays Consulting have been part of a wider study into the use of carbonate microchemistry to determine if shellfish had a unique, site-specific chemical signature which persisted over time. If a unique signature could be found then an approach could be developed to identify where shellfish had been harvested that is: quick; simple; cheap; robust and persistent.

Results of a recent field trial have shown that it is possible to obtain such a signature with mussels even when using quite small sample numbers. This now requires further investigation with more samples over a wider geographic area. These signatures are integrated over the lifespan of the animal. In the future, this may be able to be extended to investigate the link between the chemical fingerprint in the shellfish and that of mobile species, such as fish.

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