Marine Environment & Food Safety Services

Marine Environment and Food Safety Services logo.MEFSS provide key scientific services to government in support of evidence-based policy development and to ensure we continue to meet objectives for safe seafood, sustainable development of the marine environment, sustainable aquaculture and clean seas.  

We carry out four core functions:  

1. Monitoring

We conduct statutory monitoring programmes in support of the aquaculture industry and seafood safety.  These include:

  • national shellfish biotoxin monitoring programme;
  • sampling and analysing farmed fish for certain veterinary residues, in compliance with the seafood component of the National Residues Control Programme;
  • fish health monitoring; and
  • national sea lice monitoring programme.  

An extensive environmental monitoring programme in transitional, coastal and marine waters aimed at fulfilling the requirements: 

  • of the EU Shellfish Waters and Water Framework Directives.
  • of other international environmental obligations—such as  OSPAR’s Co-ordinated Environmental Monitoring Programme (CEMP)—is a major element of our work.  

The parameters monitored include nutrients and physico-chemical parameters (temperature, salinity, pH etc.), priority substances and other specific marine pollutants, phytoplankton and benthic fauna.

In support of these programmes, we are the National Reference Laboratory for diseases in: 

  • shellfish, finfish, and crustaceans;
  • biotoxins;
  • microbiological contaminants in shellfish; and
  • certain chemical substances in aquaculture.

A robust, accredited (INAB) quality system underpins the delivery of many of these food safety and environmental programmes.  

2. Advice

We provide advice on a range of topics relating to seafood safety, aquaculture and the marine environment including:

  • advice to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on applications for aquaculture licences;
  • appropriate Assessments of aquaculture and fisheries activities in NATURA 2000 sites (in association with colleagues in Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services);
  • implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD);
  • single Bay Management (SBM)—designed to co-ordinate husbandry practices on finfish farms;
  • issues related to the disposal of dredge spoil at sea—advice to Port Companies; participation on the EPA Dumping at Sea Advisory Committee; Advice to DAFM in relation to impacts of dumping at sea on aquaculture and fisheries;
  • advice to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government on applications for Foreshore Leases/Licences;
  • advice on chemical uses by the offshore industry to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR);
  • the provision of data and advice to international organisations such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and the Oslo-Paris Convention on the Marine Environment in the North East Atlantic (OSPAR).

3. Competent Authority for Fish Health

Our Fish Health Unit is the National Competent Authority for the implementation of EU and national legislation aquatic animal health. We issue Fish Health Authorisations (FHAs) for aquaculture production businesses and monitor the movement of finfish and shellfish into and within Ireland.

4. Research

Research to support our monitoring and advice functions is a core component of the work of MEFSS.  The current research focus includes: 

  • fish health, 
  • sea lice, 
  • shellfish biotoxins, 
  • microbiological safety in shellfish, 
  • marine pollution, 
  • ocean acidification and 
  • contaminants in seafood.

We are charged with supporting Ireland’s National Marine Biotechnology Programme, through the provision of laboratory facilities for research projects being carried out in higher education institutes. 

A collaborative approach is a key feature of all the work outlined above, which is carried out with/on behalf of a number of government departments and state agencies including:

  • Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 
  • Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; 
  • Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; 
  • Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources;
  • Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Food Safety Authority of Ireland;
  • Sea Fisheries Protection Authority); and 
  • International bodies (e.g. OSPAR, ICES).

Joe Silke, Director of Marine Environment & Food Safety Services. Photo Andrew Downes, XPOSURE.

Joe Silke, Director of Marine Environment & Food Safety Services.