Diversity and regional distribution of harmful algal events along the Atlantic margin of Europe

Eileen Bresnan, Fabiola Arévalo, Catherine Belin, Maria A.c. Branco, Allan D. Cembella, Dave Clarke, Jorge Correa, Keith Davidson, Monika Dhanji-rapkova, Raul Fernández Lozano, Margarita Fernández-tejedor, Hafsteinn Guðfinnsson, David Jaén Carbonell, Aitor Laza-martinez, Maud Lemoine, Adam M. Lewis, Luz Mamán Menéndez, Benjamin H. Maskrey, April Mckinney, Yolanda PazosMarta Revilla, Raffaele Siano, Alexandra Silva, Sarah Swan, Andrew D. Turner, Laura Schweibold, Pieter Provoost, Henrik Enevoldsen

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The IOC-ICES-PICES Harmful Algal Event Database (HAEDAT) was used to describe the diversity and spatiotemporal distribution of harmful algal events along the Atlantic margin of Europe from 1987 - 2018. The majority of events recorded are caused by Diarrhetic Shellfish Toxins (DSTs). These events are recorded annually over a wide geographic area from southern Spain to northern Scotland and Iceland, and are responsible for annual closures of many shellfish harvesting areas. The dominant causative dinoflagellates, members of the morphospecies ‘Dinophysis acuminata complex’ and D. acuta, are common in the waters of the majority of countries affected. There are regional differences in the causative species associated with PST events; the coasts of Spain and Portugal with the dinoflagellates Alexandrium minutum and Gymnodinium catenatum, north west France/south west England/south Ireland with A. minutum, and Scotland/Faroe Islands/Iceland with A. catenella. This can influence the duration and spatial scale of PST events as well as the toxicity of shellfish. The diatom Pseudo-nitzschia australis is the most widespread Domoic Acid (DA) producer, with records coming from Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and the UK. Amnesic Shellfish Toxins (ASTs) have caused prolonged closures for the scallop fishing industry due to the slow depuration rate of DA. Amendments to EU shellfish hygiene regulations introduced between 2002 and 2005 facilitated end-product testing and sale of adductor muscle. This reduced the impact of ASTs on the scallop fishing industry and thus the number of recorded HAEDAT events. Azaspiracids (AZAs) are the most recent toxin group responsible for events to be characterised in the ICES area. Events associated with AZAs have a discrete distribution with the majority recorded along the west coast of Ireland. Ciguatera Poisoning (CP) has been an emerging issue in the Canary Islands and Madeira since 2004. The majority of aquaculture and wild fish mortality events are associated with blooms of the dinoflagellate Karenia mikimotoi and raphidophyte Heterosigma akashiwo. Such fish killing events occur infrequently yet can cause significant mortalities. Interannual variability was observed in the annual number of HAEDAT areas with events associated with individual shellfish toxin groups. HABs represent a continued risk for the aquaculture industry along the Atlantic margin of Europe and should be accounted for when considering expansion of the industry or operational shifts to offshore areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101976
Number of pages32
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021


  • Paralytic Shellfish Toxins
  • Diarrhetic Shellfish Toxins
  • Amnesic Shellfish Toxins
  • Azaspiracid Shellfish Toxins
  • Ciguatera Poisoning
  • Mortality events


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