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Isolation, culture, and genomic analysis of harmful algal species affecting aquaculture on the west coast of Canada and analysis of the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program historical database



Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are responsible for considerable economic losses due to cultured finfish/shellfish mortalities and toxic HABs in shellfish can threaten human health. With the support of the British Columbia (BC) salmon aquaculture industry, the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program (HAMP) was established in 1999 as a community program to address the devastating effect of harmful algae on farmed fish. Through systematic microscopic surveillance of water samples, HAMP has provided salmon aquaculture companies with monitoring data and early warning of HABs at farm sites. However, more research is needed to improve the knowledge of HABs as well as the ability to predict blooms by analysing historical data. Researchers need to identify certain HAB species, cultivate these species for study, and analyze previous HAMP data to investigate potential trends. The first goal of this project is to isolate and culture microalgal species that are known to be harmful to cultured fish and shellfish in BC. These cultures will be used for detailed identification of species, preliminary studies of physical variations for each select species, development of species-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, and creation of an image gallery and database of local harmful algae. These tools will be used to improve existing training and surveillance strategies to assist aquaculture companies and the HAMP. The second goal of this project is to carry out genomic analyses on shellfish gill tissues to determine genomic and biological responses to HABs and to link these responses with particular algal species. Finally, a retrospective analysis of 13 years of data from HAMP will be undertaken. This will significantly improve knowledge on spatial and temporal trends of local harmful algal blooms and will contribute to improving existing HAB surveillance and mitigation strategies.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2012 - 2014


Pacific: Vancouver Island West Coast

Principal Investigator(s)

Chris Pearce

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