Minimising the risk of harm to aquaculture and human health from advective harmful algal blooms through early warning

Lead Research Organisation: Scottish Association For Marine Science
Department Name: Scottish Association For Marine Science

Abstract

Phytoplankton are free-floating plants found in marine and freshwaters that, through their photosynthetic growth, form the base of the aquatic food chain. A small subset of the phytoplankton may be harmful to human health or to human use of the ecosystem. The species that cause harm are now widely referred to as 'Harmful Algae' with the term 'Harmful Algal Bloom' (HAB) commonly being used to describe their occurrence and effects.

Some HABs can be harmful to humans through their production of biotoxins that are concentrated in the flesh of filter feeding shellfish, leading to a health risk if the shellfish are consumed by humans. Other HABs can kill farmed fish. HAB events of either type can have serious financial consequences for aquaculture.

Early warning of HAB events provides a mechanism to protect human health and minimise business risk for aquaculture.

Many important HABs develop offshore. Two of the most important in the UK and worldwide are the genus Dinophysis sp. that causes diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, and the species Karenia mikimotoi that can kill farmed fish. These organisms are transported to coastal aquaculture sites by oceanic currents. For K. mikimotoi we can use satellite remote sensing to identify their offshore blooms, for Dinophysis we know the locations and times of the year that are most high risk.

In this project we shall use a combination of satellite remote sensing, in situ measurement (using free floating and moored scientific instruments that measure the properties of the water column) and mathematical modelling of oceanic currents and HABs to get a better understanding of where these harmful blooms develop and under what conditions they will be transported to the coast and subsequently into the fjords where aqaculture is located.

Our results will be used to improve risk assessment bulletins that are produced weekly for use by aquaculture practitioners. The new knowledge gained in this project will allow us, for the first time, to interpret modelled ocean current forecasts to provide forecasts of the likelihood of these currents carrying advective HABs to the coast. The work will also allow us to determine if on reaching the coast, water exchange will allow blooms to enter the sheltered fjords within which aquaculture is practiced. This will allow industry to better plan their husbandry and harvesting to minimise HAB risk to business and health.

Technical Summary

HABs are a threat to aquaculture globally. Filter feeding shellfish vector HAB toxins to human consumers, with icthyotoxic genera impacting finfish aquaculture. Many HABs develop offshore and are advectively transported to coastal aquaculture locations. Early warning of such blooms would minimise the risk of harm to human health and aquaculture business operation.

In UK waters the most prevalent shellfish toxin producing phytoplankton genera is the Dinophysis (that causes diarrhetic shellfish poisoning) and the organism of greatest threat to finfish farming is Karenia mikimotoi.

While not all HAB organisms can be detected by satellite remote sensing, K. mikimotoi is suitable for this approach. We shall therefore use existing data sets to further develop an optical classifier for K. mikimotoi discrimination.

We shall undertake offshore drifter deployments (drogued to two depths) and near shore mooring based CTDs. Data generated will allow us to evaluate how different current and tidal conditions are likely to transport water and associated HABs to coastal and fjordic aquaculture sites and in particular to evaluate factors such as dispersion and the influence of the water depth at which the HAB is present.

We will use the data to ground truth a new FVCOM based unstructured grid model of these waters. Such models are too computationally demanding to run in real time forecast mode, and hence we will run a range of "what if" scenarios to produce a "knowledge base" of the role of currents in HAB transport in the region. HAB transport into fjords will be assessed using the ACExR model.

Project synthesis will use operational oceanography products in the form of Mercator model forecasts of ocean currents for the week ahead, interpreted on the basis of the scientific advances detailed above, to evaluate the HAB likelihood at aquaculture sites in each forthcoming week. These forecasts will be included in weekly HAB bulletins issued to the aquaculture industry.

Planned Impact

The project's primary aim is to enhance the reliability of bulletins of harmful algal bloom (HAB) risk that are issued weekly to the finfish and shellfish aquaculture industries.

HABs impact aquaculture in a number of ways:

1) Some HAB genera impact human health through their production of natural biotoxins that are accumulated within filter feeding shellfish. Human consumption of these shellfish can be harmful to health.

2) Other organisms can cause the mortality of farmed fish, either through very high abundance/biomass or the production of toxins.

3) Both of the above events can have a significant economic impact on aquaculture through the loss of product, or in the case of shellfish poisoning, the potential for lost sales through negative public perception.

A rage of mitigation measures to protect health and the economics of the aquaculture industry can be undertaken given sufficient early warning of bloom events. These include moving fish cages or reducing stocking density, early or delayed harvest of shellfish and/or increased end product testing.

HABs are temporally and spatially variable and early warning is therefore not straightforward. Currently UK shellfish consumers are protected by regulatory monitoring of HAB cell abundance and shellfish flesh toxin concentrations. However, as evidenced by the 2013 UK diarrhetic shellfish poisoning event, that generated extensive human illness, increases in advective HAB cell abundance may occur too rapidly to be captured by this weekly monitoring.

Hence, to provide enhanced protection UK shellfish and finfish aquaculture practitioners have commissioned weekly risk assessment bulletins.

This project will provide a step change in the level of information within these bulletins.

Currently bulletins are effectively a summary of present conditions, from which forecasts are made based on expected trends. The project will move the bulletins to the realm of true forecasts that use remote sensing, improved scientific understanding and state of the art modelling of oceanographic currents to determine the likely location and timing of advective HAB events that may negatively impact aquaculture.

The project will be centered on the Shetland Isles that has the highest concentration of UK aquaculture activity. However, the techniques developed will be easily utilized elsewhere in the UK and abroad in the many locations that suffer from advective HABs.

Direct knowledge exchange to the aquaculture industry will be achieved through the weekly issuing of the enhanced bulletins in the latter part of the project. However, we recognize that it is important that industry have confidence in the science behind our predictions and that the bulletins are easily interpretable and are in a format that is suitable for industry use. Hence, we will work closely with an industry based advisory group on an ongoing basis throughout the project to ensure two way knowledge exchange that enhances the final product.

Publications

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Berdalet E (2015) Marine harmful algal blooms, human health and wellbeing: challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. in Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

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Davidson K (2016) Forecasting the risk of harmful algal blooms. in Harmful algae

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Dees P (2017) Harmful algal blooms in the Eastern North Atlantic Ocean. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

 
Description Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are spatially and temporally variable. These events can lead to shellfish toxicity with implications for human health and to mortalities of farmed fish. The aquaculture industry requires better early warning of these events and their likely impact. During this project we developed: an increased understanding of the factors that goven blooms, better remote sensing methodologies to provide early bloom identification and new mathematical modelling approaches to simulat bloom transport and development. These have been incorporated in a web based platform (www.HABreports.org) from which the Scotish aquaculture industry can obtain weekly assessments of HAB risk.
Exploitation Route The risk assessment methodology developed within the project is beingused operationally by the Scottish aquaculture industry, with weekly industry funded harmful algal and biotoxin risk assessment bulletins being issued weekly via the web site developed in the project.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Other

URL http://www.HABreport.org
 
Description The harmful algal alert bulletins produced by this award are used by the aquaculture industry to mitigate risk to their harvesting operations
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description BBSRC/NERC Joint Call in Aquaculture: Collaborative Research and Innovation
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/S004246/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 10/2021
 
Description Marine Integrated Autonomous Observing Systems
Amount £1,800,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description NERC Aqaculture programme
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2019
 
Description PhytoMOPS: Phytoplankton Morphology and Optical Properties Sensor
Amount £198,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/S004424/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
 
Title Web based Harmful algal risk assessment methodology 
Description The web site www.HABreports.org has been develped to include a range of tools to report harmful algal and marine biotoxin risk to regulatory, industry and the general public 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact the risk assessments provided are safeguarding humand health from shellfish biotoxins 
 
Description Seafood Shetland 
Organisation Seafood Shetland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Production of harmful algal and biotoxin risk assessments for the Shetland aquaculture industry
Collaborator Contribution Facilitating access to the shellfish industry in Shetland, local knowledge
Impact improved shellfish safety, less finanical rish for the shellfish industry
Start Year 2015
 
Description Aquaculture Europe conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Three presentations of different aspects of harmful algal risk assessment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Aquaculture Europe conference (Edinburgh, Sep. 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I presented two talks on: "Satellite-based HAB and water quality monitoring for shellfish farms to support management decisions", focussed on results from the ShellEye, AQUA-USERS and Advective HABs projects. Many questions were asked, demonstrating the dissemination of this research to the aquaculture industry and water quality management agencies. The talks were also highlighted in the summary report of the conference sessions, further evidence that the presentations were well understood.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.easonline.org/39-uncategorised/346-aquaculture-europe-2016
 
Description Aquaculture Insustry engagement event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Project dissemination event at the trade assocation Seafood Shetland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Aquaculture workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presenation on harmful algal risk assessment to aquaculture workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description GlobalHAB 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Membership of the steering group of the GlobalHAB initiative
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description GlobalHAB steering committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Membership of the steering commitee of the GLOBALHAB initiative that seeks to promote beter integration of international harmful algal bloom reasearch
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018
 
Description Government advice 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact presntation on harmful algal risk assessment to Scottish Government Working Group for Sustainable Aquaculture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2015
 
Description Harmful algal blooms: a global solution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Artice on harmful algal blooms in Science Scotland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.sciencescotland.org/issue.php?id=29
 
Description ICES Working group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Participation in ICES working group for Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics that advises ICES and hence policy makers on harmful algal bloom risk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description ICES working group presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of HAN risk assessment to ICES working group and associated intenational harmful algal monitoring organisations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description ICES/PICES HABs and Climate Change Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at the ICES/PICES HABs and climate change conference in Gothenburg on HAB risk assessment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description ICHA conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presenation (keynote co-author, oral and poster) to the International Conference on Harmful Algae in Florianopolis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description IOC Working group: Climate Change and Global Trends of Phytoplankton in the Ocean 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact membership of IOC working group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presenation - Chinese Academy of Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation to Chinese Academy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation to the aquaculutre insurance industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presenation on harmful algal bloom risk and consequences to an international gathering of insurance companies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research seminar at NOC southampton
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Shelf Seas science in policy context workskop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop with Scottish Government policy and science representatives to present and disucuss the role of shelf seas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Stakeholder meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact meeting with Seeafood Shetland regarding HAB risk assessment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stakeholder meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact presentation to and discssion with aquaculture practioners in Shetland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stakeholder meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation to industry
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description UHI resarch conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presenation and discussion on harmful algae at university wide research conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UHI research conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact presentation to university research conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presenation at the BBSRC/NERC aquaculture meeting in London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015