PROJECT AMBASSADOR OF THE MONTH
Dr. Graham Pierce / University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Dr. Graham Pierce is leader of workpackage 8, which deals with assessing the risk posed by anisakids parasites in fish products. This WP is particularly aimed at undertaking a quantitative risk assessment and estimating the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies proposed within the project.
About Graham Pierce
Dr. Graham Pierce has worked in marine biology and fisheries research for amost 30 years. He as been a member of the academic staff of the University of Aberdeen since 1996 and was Marie Curie Chair at the Instituto Español de Oceanografía in Vigo (Spain) during 2007-2010. Dr. Pierce has coordinated several European projects (e.g. CEPHSTOCK on cephalopod biology and fisheries, BIOCET on contaminant bioaccumulation in marine mammals) and is author of approximately 240 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He is a member of the ICES Science Committee (2012-2016) and chair of the ICES Steering Group on Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics. He is also co-chair of the ICES Working group on Marine Mammal Ecology (2015-2017). He is a former president of the Cephalopod International Advisory Council and member and former chair of ICES WGCEPH. His research interests are mainly in the life history and ecology of exploited species and top predators.
Dr. Graham Pierce has given us some key answers related to his work within the PARASITE project:
What kind of data are needed to conduct such an ambitious risk assessment?
Fundamentally, good data on the occurrence and abundance of nematodes in marine fish, on health effects in humans and human attitudes to the presence of anisakids in fish. In addition, we need data on the identity of the nematodes in the fish to confirm visual identifications.
Have been all those data collected within the PARASITE project? What means have been used to get them?
PARASITE has collected an enormous amount of data on nematodes in fish. This has helped as to identify which species and areas show the highest parasite burden but has also made clear that parasite load is very variable. The project also undertook consumer surveys to determine people’s knowledge and attitudes in relation to anisakids, e.g. “willingness to pay” for treatment of fish. The most challenging aspect of the work has been getting good data on the incidence of human health impacts; the best data available come from Spain. Molecular genetic work in Rome has provide identifications of the anisakids and we are currently finishing off the quantative risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis.
What is, in layman terms, a quantitative risk analysis? What it is expected to achieve with it?
The purpose is to quantify the risk to the consumer of suffering an adverse reaction to anisakids or anisakid proteins. This risk obviously depends on the type of fish eaten, whether the fish is raw or cooked and of course on the likelihood that the fish contains anisakid worms and/or proteins.
Do you intend to elaborate recommendations based on the results obtained? To whom will they be addressed?
We expect that there will be recommendations, highlighting the risks to the consumer and the associated costs of accepting that risk or trying to reduce it. Of course the recommendations will take into account all the work done in the PARASITE project on different aspects of the problem, it is not only about the risk analysis.
In the first place we are reporting to the European Commission, our funding body but we also expect to communicate the results to the relevant management and regulatory authorities and make them available to the public. It is important to recognise of course that sometimes simply highlighting the existence of a problem with our food can change consumer perceptions so care is needed to accurately communicate the results.