Monitoring Seafood Safety and Coastal Ecosystem Health:
Imagine empowering local communities to serve as ecohealth watchers! This is the foundation of a sustainable training program that promotes coastal ecosystem health and seafood safety in developing nations and has been implemented in the Philippines, Guatemala and Indonesia. This country-specific training has focused on coastal ecosystem health, including monitoring and management of ecosystem-disruptive phytoplankton blooms, measurement of nutrient inputs to coastal waters, and planning for ecologically sustainable aquaculture. This International Coastal Ecosystem Health program is a collaborative effort among North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) scientists, the International Oceanographic Commission, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Government of Japan.
Coastal Ecosystem Health in Developing Nations
And The Promotion of Safe Seafood
Training classes were held from 2007-2012 in the Philippines, Guatemala, and Indonesia to highlight a community partnership approach towards establishing sustainable models for monitoring seafood safety and coastal ecosystem health in developing nations. The project, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and administered by the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), worked to assist in the prevention of fisheries impacts and to build the capacity of scientists studying this topic in developing countries in the Pacific Rim. The efforts focused on preparing and teaching country-specific training courses most needed to ensure coastal ecosystem health, including monitoring and management of ecosystem-disruptive phytoplankton blooms, measurement of nutrient inputs to coastal waters, and planning for ecologically sustainable aquaculture.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission assisted the PICES Coastal Ecosystem Health program to identify countries that were best matched by contacting member countries via a questionnaire. The goal of this stage was to obtain country self-assessments and an evaluation of their realistic needs to elucidate: 1. The current level of expertise and need for training; 2. The nature and magnitude of the seafood safety problem(s); and 3. The likelihood of program sustainability.
Specific project accomplishments include the establishment of seafood toxin screening protocols in the Philippines, Guatemala and Indonesia. Through the PICES project, analysts in government and University laboratories were trained in newer high-level toxin detection methods, including rapid “dipstick” and enzyme-based methods. The strategy is to implement these faster and field-based methods to allow screening of shellfish to reduce the numbers of samples requiring animal testing.
Nutrient analysis methods have been established in Indonesia. High-density phytoplankton “ecosystem health disruptive” bloom events are devastating to coastal economies and coastal ecosystem health. They are indicative of an unbalanced ecosystem, where excess nutrient supply at non-natural nutrient ratios exceeds the capacity of the coastal waters to consume and process without disruptive blooms. Rapid analytical methods that use minimal amounts of toxic chemicals were implemented.
Using community participatory research approaches, local community members are the recipients of training. Our project philosophy was to train the next generation of trainer (to spread the methods) and teachers (to expand the scientific and environmental basis). For example, our Indonesia collaborators are using a microscope acquired through this project to provide training to students in Lampung. Together with our Guatemalan colleagues, we have developed an outreach poster to dispel rumors and provide clearer information to medical professionals and fisheries communities in this country.
The International Coastal Ecosystem Health program model is a “shovel-ready” concept, available for expansion to other developing nations. Discussions with US AID and WESTPAC show promise for future work.
Project scientists: Dr. Vera Trainer (Northwest Fisheries Science Center), principal investigator; Dr. Mark Wells (University of Maine), Dr. Charlie Trick (Western University, London, Ontario, Canada); Dr. William Cochlan (Romberg Tiburon Laboratory of the San Francisco State University). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 206-860-6788
Below are links to articles on the 2009 HAB training course in the Philippines: (http://www.pices.int/publications/pices_press/volume17/v17_n2/pp_5-7%20HAB%20project_f.pdf)
and the 2010 HAB training course in Guatemala:(http://www.pices.int/publications/pices_press/volume18/v18_n2/pp36_PICES_Seafood_Safety_Guatemala_project.pdf).