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University casts its net over seafood with new think-tank

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Stirling Aquatic Food Security

A new think-tank has been set up by the University of Stirling to identify key issues facing Scotland’s seafood industry and offer potential solutions for the next 40 years.

A growing global population, climate changes and dwindling supplies of sea fish stocks could all affect supplies reaching consumers’ tables in the future.

Professor Rachel Norman, chair of the University’s new Aquatic Food Security Group, said: "Hopefully we can explore some of the real challenges facing the industry – but also offer ideas to help offer sustainable supplies of fish and fish products to consumers in the years to come.”

Food security is a global issue. Growing populations, climate change, diseases and an increase in wealth in developing countries all mean that the demand for food is expected to increase significantly over the next 40 years.

“Most work on food security focuses on crops or terrestrial mammals,” said Professor Norman. “With the excellent research being carried out in the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, Stirling is uniquely placed to tackle the issues related to food security in the aquatic environment."

The new group will be officially launched at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) meeting at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh this week.

The Aquatic Food Security Group is hosting a workshop on Thursday 29 August entitled “Aquatic Food Security – Scotland’s role for a global market” at which invited speakers will discuss both the Scottish and UK position on aquatic food security.

This will be followed by a debate about what is unique about aquatic food products and a “horizon scanning” exercise, where the issues facing Scotland will be discussed.

Professor Norman previously worked in Computing Science and Mathematics at Stirling, on mathematical models of the dynamics and control of wildlife diseases. The other members of the group are: Dr Mags Crumlish, a microbiologist who is interested in disease diagnostics and food safety; Amaya Albalat who is a physiologist interested in food quality; Oscar Monroig, who works on sustainable ways to feed fish and maintain their health benefits; and Anthony O’Hare who is also a mathematical modeller who is interested in game theoretical approaches to dynamic interacting systems.

Professor Norman said: “I’m delighted that the University has invested in this group. Food security – in terms of protecting supplies and the quality of the food produced - is a really critical issue and our focus here, on aquatic food products, is both unique and important. We have some really interesting projects in mind and cannot wait to get started.”

Background information

For more information on the Aquatic Food Security Group, contact Professor Rachel Norman:

Aquatic Food Security Research Group

Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland


  • Professor Rachel Norman, Head of Group: Rachel has a background in mathematical modelling of wildlife diseases with more recent work focusing on aquatic pathogens. She has a mathematics degree and a PhD in Mathematical Biology from Liverpool University. She came to Stirling in 1996 as a lecturer in the Mathematics and Statistics group and spent 16 years in that group before taking up her post as head of this exciting new group.

  • Dr Mags Crumlish: Mags research includes the identification and characterisation of microbial diseases affecting farmed aquatic animals. She is particularly interested in understanding the pathogenesis of bacterial infections affecting farmed fish and shellfish. She gained her PhD at Stirling where she continued her research in disease identification and diagnosis leading to the production of vaccines against bacterial infections. She has a keen interest in microbial food safety.

  • Dr Amaya Albalat: Amaya has a background in fish and crustacean physiology. Her main interest are a better understanding of animal physiological responses in situations of stress, infection, fishing and aquaculture practices and their impact into the post-mortem metabolism and ultimately seafood quality. She conducted her PhD in the University of Barcelona and during the last eight years she has work in the University of Glasgow.

  • Dr Oscar Monroig: Oscar works in fish nutrition with special interest in Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) biosynthesis in farmed species, in particular understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the LC-PUFA biosynthesis and genetic improvement of Atlantic salmon stocks. He has already spent some time in Stirling on a Marie Curie fellowship. Immediately before coming to Stirling, Oscar has been working in Spain.

  • Dr Anthony O’Hare: Anthony is a physicist by background with interests in emergent phenomenon in complex many-body interacting systems, game theoretic approaches to dynamic interacting systems and the simulation of non-linear mathematical  model. Prior to taking up his position of lecturer in Aquatic Food Security, he completed several years of postdoctoral research in the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health in the University of Glasgow investigating the transmission dynamics of bovine Tuberculosis within the UK.

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