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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Aquatic Animal Health Research » Research » Research Project #438088

Research Project: Harmful Algal Blooms: Prevalence and Control Measures for the Domestic Fish and Shellfish Industries

Location: Aquatic Animal Health Research

Project Number: 6010-32000-027-011-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: May 1, 2020
End Date: Apr 30, 2025

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of animal agriculture; however, sustainable expansion and intensification of aquaculture is severely hampered by issues related to aquatic animal health. Health issues on farms are often initiated or exacerbated by deteriorated environmental conditions such as the presence of harmful algal-derived toxins. As a result, a collaborative effort between Auburn University and the USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit (AAHRU) is needed to develop new detection, prevention, and control measures for harmful algae to reduce fish/shellfish mortality, safeguard animal performance, and ensure product quality.

Harmful algal blooms negatively impact aquaculture operations throughout the globe. Recently, harmful algal blooms are occurring with increased regularity and severity on domestic catfish and inland marine shrimp farms. These harmful algal blooms have brought about large-scale catastrophic losses of valuable catfish and shrimp, particularly in the summer months immediately prior to harvest. In Alabama alone, since 2015, mortality levels attributed to harmful algal blooms have surged to nearly 1 million pounds of catfish annually. Moreover, harmful algal blooms are thought to exert profound chronic effects such as inappetence/reduced feeding, thereby increasing the time to harvest, along with stress and immunosuppression that can potentially predispose fish to parasitic and bacterial disease. Despite the serious impact of such blooms, information and research studies are lacking; particularly efforts to determine the precise mechanisms governing acute die-offs and the sublethal pathophysiological effects of harmful algal blooms and their toxins on the catfish or shrimp host. Personnel at USDA-ARS AAHRU and Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences in Auburn, AL will coordinate the research, demonstration, and dissemination efforts. The project will focus on the toxicology of harmful algal blooms including the algal species involved and the factors mediating toxin production or release, better detection methods predictive of conditions favoring toxic releases, and new biological or chemical approaches to manage harmful algal blooms in a cost­effective manner. Research results and plans will be made available to producers and extension professionals through web publications, field days, and commodity meetings and to the scientific community at large thorough popular press and peer-reviewed literature.