Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Harmful Algae and their Toxins

Among the thousands of microscopic marine algal species, a few are harmful to humans and wildlife. Some produce toxins that can cause diseases such as amnesic shellfish poisoning (caused by the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia that can produce the toxin, domoic acid), paralytic shellfish poisoning (caused by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium that can produce the toxin, saxitoxin), diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (caused by the dinoflagellate Dinophysis that can produce the toxins okadaic acid and dinophysistoxins). Other algal toxins can kill aquacultured fish, such as the unarmored flagellate Heterosigma akashiwo. Our research has focused on six principal aspects of harmful algae and their toxins.

Important prior and current research

Nobuharu Inaba, Vera L. Trainer, Yuka Onishi, Ken-Ichiro Ishii, Sandy Wyllie-Echeverria, Ichiro Imai. 2017. Algicidal and growth-inhibiting bacteria associated with seagrass and macroalgae beds in Puget Sound, WA, USA. Harmful Algae. Volume 62. P 136-147.

McCabe, R. M., B. M. Hickey, R. M. Kudela, K. A. Lefebvre, N. G. Adams, B. D. Bill, F. M. D. Gulland, R. E. Thomson, W. P. Cochlan, and V. L. Trainer. 2016. An unprecedented coastwide toxic algal bloom linked to anomalous ocean conditions. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 10,366–10,376. doi:10.1002/2016GL070023.

Wells, M.L., Trainer, V.L., Smayda, T.J., Karlson, B.S.O., Trick, C.G., Kudela, R.M., Ishikawa, A., Bernard, S., Wulff, A., Anderson, D.M., Cochlan, W.P. 2015. Harmful algal blooms and climate change: learning from the past and present to forecast the future. Harmful Algae. 49: 68-93.

Trainer, V.L., Hardy, F.J. 2015. Integrative monitoring of marine and freshwater harmful algae in Washington State for public health protection. Toxins 7, 1206-1234. doi:10.3390/toxins7041206.

Hickey, B.M., Trainer, V.L., Kosro, M.P., Adams, N.G., Connolly, T.P., Kachel, N.B., Geier, S.L. 2013. A springtime source of toxic Pseudo-nitzschia on razor clam beaches in the Pacific Northwest. Harmful Algae. doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2013.01.006.

Anderson, D. M., G. Doucette, C. A. Scholin, J. Paul, V. L. Trainer, L. Campbell, R.M. Kudela, R.P. Stumpf, J.R. Morrison. 2012. Harmful algal bloom (HAB) sensors in ocean observing systems. Interagency Ocean Observation Committee summit white paper.

Trainer, V.L., Bates, S.S., Lundholm, N., Thessen, A.E., Adams, N.G., Cochlan, W.P., Trick, C.G. 2012. Pseudo-nitzschia physiological ecology, phylogeny, toxicity, monitoring and impacts on ecosystem health. Hamful Algae. 14, 271-300. Eberhart, B.-T. L., Bill, B.D., Trainer, V.L. 2012. Strategies for remote sampling of harmful algal blooms: a case study on the Washington State coast. Harmful Algae. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2012.05.005

Lundholm, Nina, Bates, Stephen S., Baugh, Keri A., Bill, Brian D., Connell, Laurie, Léger, Claude, Trainer, Vera L. 2012. Cryptic and pseudo-cryptic diversity in diatoms - with descriptions of Pseudo-nitzschia hasleana sp. nov. and P. fryxelliana sp. nov. J. Phycology. 48, 436-454.

Chadsey, M., V.L. Trainer, T.M. Leschine. 2011. Cooperation of Science and Management for Harmful Algal Blooms: Domoic Acid and the Washington Coast Razor Clam Fishery. Coastal Management. 40(1). 33-54.

Jochens, A.E., Malone, T., Stumpf , R., Hickey, B.M., Jones, B., Morrison. R., Dyble, J., Carter, M., Trainer, V.L. 2011. Integrated Ocean Observing System in Support of Forecasting Harmful Algal Blooms. Marine Technology Society. 44(6), 99-121.

Trick, C.G., Bill, B.D., Cochlan, W.P., Wells, M.L., Trainer, V.L. and Pickell, L.D. 2010, Iron enrichment stimulates toxic diatom production in High Nitrate Low Chlorophyll areas. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. doi:10.1073/pnas.0910579107.

Moore, S.K., Mantua, N.J., Hickey, B.M., and Trainer, V.L. 2010. The relative influences of El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation on paralytic shellfish toxin accumulation in Pacific Northwest shellfish. Limnol. Oceanogr. 56, 2262-2274.

Smayda T.J., Trainer, V.L. 2010. Dinoflagellate blooms in upwelling systems: seeding, variability, and contrasts with diatom bloom behavior. Progress in Oceanography. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2010.02.006.

Trainer, V.L., Pitcher, G.C., Reguera, B., Smayda, T.J. 2010. The distribution and impacts of harmful algal bloom species in Eastern Boundary upwelling systems. Progress in Oceanography. 85: 35-52.