CBTOX - HAB toxins in Chesapeake Bay

Title: Managing the complex profile of biotoxins threatening the shellfish industry of Lower Chesapeake Bay

Primary Investigators: Juliette L. Smith, Kimberly Reece (VIMS), Todd Egerton (VDH)

Additional VIMS Personnel: Marta Sanderson, Sarah Pease (PhD student), Michelle Onofrio (MS student), Bill Jones (VIMS), Jaclyn Friedman (MS student)

Funding Sources: Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Competition 2016

Abstract: Lower Chesapeake Bay is home to the most prolific and profitable hard clam aquaculture in the US, with profits reaching $38.8M in 2014. Similarly, this region leads the East Coast in oyster production, bringing in $17.1M in the same year. The continued success of these two growing industries, supporting over 300 growers and dozens of nurseries in the Lower Chesapeake, is directly dependent upon the reliable production of early life stages, eyed larvae or seed, by hatcheries.  Not surprisingly, these early life stages are more susceptible to stressors such as marine biotoxins produced by harmful algal species. Significant seed morbidity and mortality events, and adult oyster die-offs, have been reported by hatcheries and growers in recent years. While some of these events have coincided with algal blooms in the Lower Chesapeake, they are considered anecdotal and require further investigation by pairing industry with academia to elucidate cause(s) and mechanisms.

At the completion of this study, we will 1) provide a temporal and spatial map of HAB toxins in Lower Chesapeake Bay as a guide to the current biotoxin threats to seafood safety and shellfish health, 2) update the VA biotoxin contingency plan, and 3) determine biotoxin breakthrough and effects in seed production systems.