Vectors for the introduction of marine species that are
non-indigenous, harmful, or both, as well as their detection, are issues of
concern and research across the Working Group on the Introduction and
Transfer of Marine Organisms (WGITMO), ICES-Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) Working Group on Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics (WGHABD), and ICES-Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC)-International Maritime Organization (IMO) Working Group on Ballast and Other Ship Vectors
Early detection is particularly important in
vulnerable habitats—such as the Arctic—where climate change is having a
dramatic impact on the environment, both in terms of the increased potential
for shipping traffic to transport and introduce species in this sensitive area,
as well as the biological impacts (an increased risk for the survival of new
In 2020, WGHABD, WGITMO, and
WGBOSV met jointly for the first time. Members of all three expert
groups exchanged their experiences using molecular methods and the measurement of
algal toxins from the water to identify the presence of HAB species.
Additionally, the results from studies on HABs and invasive, non-indigenous
species present in Alaskan and Canadian Arctic areas were summarized.
study focused on the distribution, community structure, and dynamics of Alexandrium catenella
(which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning) and Pseudo-nitzschia (which can cause amnesic
shellfish poisoning) in the Northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. High abundances of A. catenella cysts and cells were
observed in waters previously thought to be too cold to initiate and sustain
large blooms, and multiple toxic species of Pseudo-nitzschia were observed as
well – all in a region with little experience with toxic HABs. Notably, a review of Canadian data revealed the widespread
presence of more than a dozen potential toxin producing species throughout
Canadian Arctic waters, the Beaufort Sea, Baffin Bay, North West Passages, well
as Hudson Bay and the Labrador Sea.
three groups highlight similar issues with the use of molecular methods,
including the need for standardization of methods among laboratories to allow data to be compared, concerns about primer bias, and the
requirement for bioinformatics expertise and computing power. Future,
innovative molecular technologies will benefit all three working groups.
The Working Group on Introduction and Transfers of Marine
Organisms (WGITMO) deals with aquatic alien species that have an influence on and occur in the
ICES-IOC-IMO Working Group on Ballast and Other Ship Vectors (WGBOSV) provides scientific support to the
development of international measures aimed at reducing the risk of
transporting non-native species via shipping activities.
ICES-IOC Working Group on Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics
looks at the dynamics of HABs and reviews and discusses
HAB events, providing annual advice and updates on the state of HABs in the
Back to ICES
Science Highlights: science and advice in a changing Arctic.
Shellfish toxin producing species observed in the