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Monitoring Atlantic shellfish toxins.

Fenwick Laboratories (formerly known as OceanChem Research) conducts research in analytical chemistry and provides analytical services for a broad range of industrial and governmental clients. Located in the Maritimes, Fenwick Labs is very aware of the importance of the shellfish industry to the livelihood of Atlantic Canada. Not only does this sector supply most of the national market with shellfish, but its export activities amount to an increasing share of seafood industry revenues. In addition, marine aquaculture of shellfish is a rapidly expanding activity.

The fragility of this market was recognized several years ago when a toxin (domoic acid) in blue mussels from Prince Edward Island virtually closed the entire east coast industry. The incident has made industry aware of the threat marine toxins pose to its customers and its markets. It is known that other marine toxins exist that are much more potent and more difficult to analyze than domoic acid. For example, the toxins associated with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) are recognized problems in Europe and Japan.

The lab's primary objectives are to provide high quality analytical services for the routine analysis of identified toxins such as domoic acid, and to conduct research into the identity, occurrence, distribution, and analytical chemistry of previously unidentified toxins such as those in the PSP and DSP groups.

In August, 1989, a two-year, $1-million agreement with the National Research Council's Atlantic Research Laboratory (ARL) was signed to collaborate on research and development related to shellfish toxins. This effort will involve finding sources of DSP, exploring methods for isolating and purifying toxins, and developing cost-effective ways of testing for the presence of the toxins in shellfish. The agreement also includes research and development on PSP and domoic acid. An experienced, skilled group of scientists and managers have been assembled to ensure that this joint venture will make Canada a world leader in shellfish toxin research. Julie Marr of Fenwick is the programme manager.

Currently, Fenwick is the only private company in Eastern Canada providing routine monitoring capability for the shellfish industry. A very successful four month monitoring programme for domoic acid and PSP in shellfish in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has recently been completed. Expansion of this programme to a variety of shellfish is imminent. In addition, the research into the development of improved analytical methods for shellfish toxins also reaffirms the company's commitment to continuously improve customer service. The research will provide enhanced monitoring capability that will enable the industry to manage, harvest, and market their catch with confidence. In the face of increasing continental and international competition, it will be essential to allow companies to certify their export products free of contamination. This certification is becoming more important as toxin limits, and related non-tariff barriers, are established by other countries.
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Author:Marr, Julie
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:Managing the ocean's resources.
Next Article:Marine biotechnology: a new focus at the National Research Council's Atlantic Research Laboratory in Halifax.

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