Development of biomarkers to assess health impact of exposure to algal toxins in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and effectiveness of mitigation measures at marine open-pen salmon farms
Atlantic salmon are Canada’s top aquaculture export and contribute $1.5 billion annually to British Columbia’s (BC) economy. In BC, blooms of toxic algae are a common problem for salmon farmers, often resulting in large production losses due to lost growth and disease with high mortality. I recently identified for the first time at BC fish farms two algal toxins, domoic acid (DA) and okadaic acid (OA) that are likely associated with mortality at these sites. The health impact of exposure to DA and OA in Atlantic salmon are not well understood; this proposed project will first investigate the presence of toxins at farm sites and examine the health effects of acute and long-term exposure to DA and OA. Next, biomarkers will be developed to allow salmon producers to monitor fish for toxicity and gauge the effectiveness of mitigation measures. This work will benefit the partner organization by improving their ability to monitor salmon for toxin exposure and allow them to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures. Together, this will enable the partner to reduce the health and economic impact of DA and OA exposure; this knowledge will also be applicable to other algal toxins of concern in Canada.