Albania: National Workshop on Bivalves

Albania groupThe health benefits of fish are widely publicised; however, the healthy attributes of bivalve

molluscs do not receive the same attention. Except perhaps in countries with tradition in cultivating and consuming bivalves, most of the consumers are not aware that molluscs are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that help fight cholesterol and heart disease.

Moreover, it is less known that Albania is the 4th largest European producer of Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) after Italy, Greece and France, having a production of about 1400 tonnes (2010 data) as per the FAO - Fishstat Plus statistics.

 

The three-day workshop on “Bivalve safety management” which was held in Saranda town on 26 - 28 June, focused on food safety aspects related to market access, with the objective to upgrade the industry’s ability to produce and export in key markets such as the European Union (EU). The event was organised by the FAO, Eurofish and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration in Albania, in connection with the regional project FAO/TCP project “Sustainable development of the aquaculture sector from a postharvest perspective with a focus on quality, traceability and safety” which targets the East Mediterranean countries Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey.

Saranda is located in the south of Albania, on an open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea, and it is famous not only for its beaches, crystal clear waters, and marine aquaculture production but the area is also hosting one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Adriatic Sea, a UNESCO heritage, located just 20 km south of the Saranda town.

Most of the Albanian bivalve molluscs production is concentrated in the Butrinti lagoon area, and their cultivation is of paramount importance for the coastal communities. The Mediterranean mussel is the most significant species produced and although in small quantities, the mussel production has shown an increased trend during the past five years. During a testing session, it has been acknowledged by the participants that the mussels are of premium quality; currently these are either consumed locally or are sold to plants for processing. Albania is not allowed to export fresh/chilled bivalves to the EU, since the country does not comply with the EU sanitary requirements.

Committed to exporting to the EU

Representatives of Montenegro have also been invited to the workshop, since mariculture, including the production of oysters and mussels contributes significantly to the strategic development of marine fisheries sector in Montenegro. The country produces around 200 tonnes per year of mussels, with a value of 300 000 €. There are 16 producers of mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and one producer of oysters (Ostrea edulis) all located in the beautiful Boka Kotorska Bay area. Increasing the bivalves molluscs production is top priority on the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Montenegro, whose ambitious plans are to increase the production to 2500 tonnes in the next 20 years, both for local consumption but mostly for exporting to the EU. Currently Montenegro it is not certified to export to the EU, however, the country exports small quantities to the neighbouring Serbia.

Therefore the programme of the workshop has been designed to address mainly the food safety requirements for the bivalve industry in the two countries, with focus on safety management, including hazards, Codex Alimentarius, monitoring and control measures, HACCP principles and HACCP implementation in bivalve depuration plants, traceability, including the design and construction of depuration plants have been explained. Issues related to biotoxins monitoring practices, risk management, as well as monitoring programme designs, legislation, communication and methods have been debated.

The requirements for export to the EU have been explained in detail, including the Rapid Alert System and the TRAde Control and Export System (TRACES). Last but not least, an overview of the bivalve market has been presented, with focus on consumption trends and case studies of promotional campaigns for increasing the bivalves’ consumption.

Highly appreciated field visits

The event gathered 37 Albanian and 9 Montenegrin participants, representatives of bivalve molluscs producers, veterinary inspectors, local and central government. After two days of intense presentation and discussions, the third day was dedicated to field visits where a bivalve production area has been seen and a depuration plant and laboratory have been visited. The field visit was very much appreciated by the Montenegro participants since currently there are no approved depuration systems in Montenegro.

The depuration plant was constructed with World Bank assistance and the design seems to be good. It has three depuration tanks, taking about 600 kg bivalves each. The source of water is from a bore well and water salinity is of about 30 ppt. The tanks are fed with UV treated water and the laboratory is fitted to carry out microbiological testing.

The depuration takes 48hrs and microbiological test is done before and after depuration. Till microbiological results are received, the bivalves are stored in a storage room at temperatures less than 10°C and then taken to a post depuration area, where they are washed and packed.

The participants also saw a cage culture of seabream in Butrinti.

Despite language barriers, there was a good interaction with speakers as well as between the participants of different nationalities.

Presentations from the Workshop are available here:

1-Bivalve mollusc production and trade

2-Bivalve markets and tendencies

3-How to export to the EU

4-Molluscs culture in Albania

5-Bivalve production and control in Montenegro

6-Biotoxins of Concern in the EU

7-HACCP-Principles

8-Biotoxin Monitoring Practices

9-Bivalve Depuration Practices

10-Application of HACCP principles in shellfish depuration

11-Traceability for raw and live bivalves

12-Validation of Test Methods for Accreditation

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