Royal Institute Super Visit 

Dr Sophie Carr Workshop – Saturday 27th April 2019

Abiramy Varathanathan As teachers, we want to show our students how they can apply what they learn in the classroom to real life. Often, we talk about the big issues at hand; the things we can directly have an impact on. But, sometimes it’s not the main issue we need to tackle, it’s the little things that allows the issue to be present in the first place. 

Recently I attended the Royal Institute Super Visit. One of the sessions led by Sophie Carr was about where shellfish come from and why we should care. Some of you are probably thinking, why does it matter where my fish come from, surely there’s plenty of it in the sea?

For some local, small fishing communities, they take a lot of pride in providing “high quality, sustainably maintained stocks with a strong regional brand” (1). It would be unfair to take away a huge tourist attraction from countries that rely on tourism as a means of economic growth. 

Exceeding over £250 million per annum, the shellfish industry is an attractive entry point for new fishermen (1). It is important to be able to identify where our food is sourced from to ensure that the shellfish industry’s integrity is maintained and that fishermen can be reassured knowing that they don’t have to yield to illegal fishing to cater to the number of rising cheaper markets. A few steps that can be taken to prevent shellfish fraud include (2):

(1) Prevent mislabelling and provide information to customers
Mislabelling can lead to “economic fraud, increased health risks, conservation harm and [facilitates] illegal fishing”. 
(2) Increase inspection to ensure the safety of seafood and keep illegal fish out of the market
Shellfish are high- risk foods that can lead to illness if not accounted for properly. 
(3) Track and trace shellfish 
As Sophie Carr mentioned in her session, with shellfish such as mussels, they carry a unique chemical which can be used to identity their origin (1). 

  Gösta fisk & seafood AB
Image: Gösta fisk & seafood AB (A Norwegian supplier) (3) 

During the session, we discussed how we can make this topic more accessible to students. The depth and background knowledge needed to access and identify a solution to this complex problem may be challenging for a class. However, we can present shellfish trafficking via histograms, cumulative density plots and box and whisker plots (1). Students can work in pairs or small groups to match up diagrams to see a link between the shape of the graphs and how this links to the distribution of the box plot. 

If you are looking to extend, the option of presenting the class with a data set and asking them to talk about “how the data can support decisions and false positive ratios” (1). I was intrigued to learn the differences between a ‘blank’, ‘N/A’ and ‘0.00’ reading. Although at first glance, they all seemed the same, after being aware of the difference, I was able to differentiate between the different readings and discuss which of the elements we would keep in and which to eliminate. 

Although, I am not an expert in Statistics and analysing figures, I was able to begin to understand how I would approach a problem like this. I think this data investigation task is an exciting opportunity for students to gain an insight into how Statisticians and data analysts work. I am definitely looking forward to incorporating this task in the classroom and seeing what each of my students take from it. 

By Abi Varathanathan 



(1) Carr, S. (2019). Where do the shellfish come and why should we care?. 1st ed. London: IMA Maths Scholars.
(2) Zisser, B., Glaser, D. and Seggerman, I. (2019). Do You Know Where Your Seafood Comes From? How Seafood Traceability Stacks Up Against Beef and Produce. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 May 2019].
(3)Gösta fisk & seafood ab. 2009. Gösta Fisk & Seafood AB. [Online]. [14 May 2019]. Available from: