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Development of environmental DNA (eDNA)-based biosurveillance for aquatic invasive species (AIS) associated with shellfish aquaculture movements



Shellfish movements associated with aquaculture activities are a known vector for AIS introduction and spread. For example, the transfer of harvested shellfish has been established as a vector for the spread of invasive tunicates, bryozoans, and European green crab. Even with mitigation measures like rinsing in place, which is currently used for green crab areas, some degree of risk of translocating invasive species is intrinsic to all shellfish movements. As such, informed decision-making around shellfish movements is an important management activity to mitigate the risk of new invasions in geographic areas in BC where AIS are not currently found, but are present in other locations. Along the coast of British Columbia, collecting spatial data on AIS distributions is challenged by high variability in the geographic distribution of AIS at relatively small spatial scales. These patchy distributions of AIS also create a challenge for management because it is not feasible to manage shellfish movements in BC at the level of individual AIS or individual bays.

Mixed-species or environmental DNA samples can be analyzed using DNA metabarcoding – a technique that simultaneously generates millions of DNA sequences from the different species that are found in the sample. By using a reference DNA sequence library, the different organisms found in these samples can be identified, including rare, cryptic and small taxa. The main objective of this project is to optimize and field-validate the eDNA-based metabarcoding tool that has been developed by the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network (CAISN) for use as an AIS biosurveillance tool in BC, which can then, in turn, support decision-making, including around shellfish aquaculture movements in BC.





Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)


2016 - 2019

Principal Investigator

Cathryn Abbott
Research Scientist, Pacific Biological Station

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