Starting in the mid 1980s, Australia has experienced an increased public
awareness of harmful algal blooms, especially their suspected involvement
in causing fish kills and feared public health risks following consumption
of contaminated seafood products and drinking water supplies. If not
adequately monitored and managed, the economic impacts on Australia's
developing aquaculture industry and on both domestic and export markets
could be devastating. An example of the first problem is the 1989 bloom
event by the golden-brown flagellate Heterosigma akashiwo in Big Glory
Bay, New Zealand, which killed NZ$ 12 million worth of cage-reared chinook
salmon. An example of the second problem is the 1993 New Zealand outbreak
of neurotoxic shellfish poisoning by the dinoflagellate Gymnodinium cf.
breve (NSP; 180 illnesses, no deaths) which led to export losses of NZ $
4.5 million in the first quarter of 1993 and a 25% decrease in domestic
shellfish demand . Similarly, positive test results are now available from
Australian shellfish products for paralytic shellfish poisons (NSW,
TAS,VIC,SA), diarrhetic shellfish poisons (TAS), amnesic shellfish poisons
(VIC) , neurotoxic shellfish poisons (VIC) and cyanobacterial peptide
toxins (WA). While algal biotoxins only in extreme cases lead to human
fatalities, it is the so-called "halo"-effect of bad publicity resulting
from a few human poisonings that can devastate aquaculture industries.
Compared to our neighbour New Zealand, which spends $3.2 M per year in
biotoxin monitoring efforts (most comes from the Ministry of Health, with
industry providing $750,000 per year via an industry levy), Australian
efforts in this area of quality assurance and environmental protection of
aquaculture operations are unsatisfactory.
The FRDC sponsored 9th International Conference on Harmful Algal Blooms held in Hobart, Tasmania, from 7-11 February 2000, was a resounding success. It was the largest conference on this topic (526 participants from 47 countries) ever held anywhere in the world. A total of 130 talks and 308 poster presentations were given. The conference broke important new ground by dedicating a special session to Algal Bloom Monitoring, Management & Mitigation. Special sessions were also dedicated to Impacts on Shellfish Aquaculture and Impacts on Finfish Aquaculture. Two FRDC representatives (Peter Lee and Alex Wells) attended, and as a special service to the Tasmanian finfish aquaculture industry US expert Dr Jack Rensel gave a keynote conference address, a special satellite seminar for fishfarmers and government staff, as well as met with 4 fish farming companies on site. US experts Prof. Sandra Shumway and Dr Monica Bricelj visited several shellfish aquaculture operations. A public forum on "Harmful Algal Blooms: Impacts on Health, Environment & Economy" was scheduled in association with the conference. The publication outputs from this meeting include a 518 pages Conference Proceedings Volume (to be published through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO) and a special issue of the international journal Phycologia (vol. 40(3)) both to appear in 2001.
Keywords: Harmful Algal Blooms; Shellfish Biotoxins; Aquaculture Finfish Kills
The 9th International Conference on Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB2000) was held in Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) from 7 to 11 February 2000. The conference venue was the Wrest Point Convention Centre located on the magnificent foreshores of the Derwent River estuary. HAB2000 brought together a record number of 526 participants (473 full and 43 day registrations, including 87 students) from 47 countries. This was the first time this prestigious conference series was scheduled in the Southern Hemisphere, but this appeared not to have deterred strong participation from Europe (122), USA (77) and South East Asia (84).
A total of 130 talks and 308 posters were presented, and where parallel sessions were scheduled the plenary introductory session featured reviews covering the full range of topics. A total of 472 abstracts, organised as a searchable database, were made available via internet during the months preceding the meeting and for registered conference participants this complete conference abstract record is also included in CD-ROM format with this Proceedings volume. The scientific programme of HAB2000 focused on new algal bloom species and new toxic phenomena, new regional bloom events, ecophysiology and bloom dynamics, cysts and sediments, eutrophication, novel toxins, ecophysiology of toxin production, exotoxins, foodchain effects, population genetics, molecular probes, immunological methods, role of bacteria, and impacts on finfish and shellfish aquaculture operations. Being held in Australia, this was the first conference in this series which prominently featured problems caused by freshwater cyanobacterial blooms, including impacts of cyanotoxins on human health and aquatic foodwebs, and aspects of drinking water treatment. A special session on international algal bloom programmes and future conferences, as well as a dedicated session on algal bloom control and management were also scheduled. The opening address was presented by Dr Meryl Williams (pp.1-2), director-general of the International Commission of Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), while the closing address was given by Prof. Max Taylor (pp.3-7), to whose lifetime pioneering achievements this conference was dedicated.