Home' InDaily : February 25th 2010 Contents Vol 21 No 1 February 2010 | 3
Flinders makes its mark with groundwater
Research reveals healthy results for farmed tuna
The work of the National Centre for
Groundwater Research and Training
(NCGRT), based at Flinders University, is
putting Australian groundwater on the
world map, according to a group of
eminent, international water specialists.
Flinders this month hosted the inaugural,
week-long meeting of the NCGRT's
International Scientific Advisory
Committee, a committee established to
review the Centre's research programs
and provide advice on an on-going basis.
The Committee comprises Emeritus
Professor Ghislain de Marsily (University
of Paris, France), Professor Edward Sudicky
(University of Waterloo, Canada),
Professor Peter Loucks (Cornell University,
New York) and Dr Leonard Konikow
(United States Geological Survey, Virginia).
"The Committee members are truly the
masters and pioneers of groundwater in
the world and to have the benefit of their
knowledge and advice is simply fantastic,"
NCGRT Director Professor Craig Simmons
told Flinders Journal.
"We received very positive feedback on
the direction of the Centre's programs,
the scientific novelty and international
significance of the research, and of the
leadership and ability of the group to
conduct that research," he said.
in farmed tuna than their free-
Ms Balshaw's study, run in conjunction
with the Aquafin Co-operative Research
Centre and Port Lincoln industry
partners, investigated mercury
accumulation in tuna to assess the
safety of tuna farming practices.
Tuna farming involves the transfer of wild
fish into sea pontoons, where they are
intensively fattened over several months.
With a steady diet of bait-fish, farmed
tuna tend to bulk up quickly and Ms
Balshaw said accumulation of very low
levels of mercury is more than offset by
their rapid growth rate.
"Selective control of bait-fish enables the
industry to feed SBT a diet low in
mercury," Ms Balshaw said.
"The rapid tissue growth experienced
during culture outweighs the effects of
mercury accumulation from feed,
resulting in a dilution of mercury residues
in fish tissues.
"So there's less mercury per kilogram of
tissue than in a wild fish."
As well as conducting tests of whole
fish, Ms Balshaw has measured mercury
levels in different marketed tissue cuts
of the tuna. She said the dilution of the
mercury is more pronounced in the fatty
tissues of the tuna, the cut most
favoured by the Japanese.
"Manufactured feeds are not
commonly used by the SBT industry,
and because there has been research
on the levels of contaminants in
baitfish species from various sources,
the farmers have an idea of the best
varieties to use," she said.
While levels of mercury in both farmed
and wild tuna are well below national
safety limits, Ms Balshaw said there is
continuing scientific debate about the
effects on human health of the levels of
mercury that accrue from regular
The Advisory Committee reviewed, and
discussed, the five streams of the
NCGRT's research program which include:
Addressing the critical shortage of
knowledge of Australia's sub-
surface water systems with new
field work and three dimensional
Collaborating with physicists,
chemists, geologists and remote
sensing experts to develop new
groundwater simulation tools,
Developing techniques to
understand the connectivity
between surface water and
Building knowledge of the
relationship between groundwater
and vegetation and how this might
be affected by climate change and
Engaging with the community and
using the new knowledge gained
from the research programs to
inform and explain decision-making
in regard to groundwater.
"We're told that a lot of people around the
world are talking about the Centre. There is
a strong international buzz about our work
and programs which will put Australian
groundwater research on the world map."
Emeritus Professor de Marsily, Professor
Sudicky and Professor Loucks also
delivered seminars to packed audiences
of students, academics and industry and
government water specialists during
Professor Craig Simmons
New research is showing that in terms of
heavy metals, farmed tuna are healthier
to eat than wild ones.
A project by a Flinders environmental
health PhD student Sita Balshaw has
demonstrated that levels of mercury in
southern bluefin tuna (SBT) are lower
Ms Sita Balshaw
Links Archive February 24th 2010 February 26th 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page