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Your Environment. Your Health.

IMPACTS OF HURRICANE DORIAN ON COASTAL SEAFOOD RESOURCES AND SAFETY

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Principal Investigator: Parsons, Michael
Institute Receiving Award Florida Gulf Coast University
Location Fort Myers, FL
Grant Number R21ES032119
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 23 Sep 2020 to 31 Aug 2022
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is the most common form of phycotoxin-borne seafood illness across the globe, affecting tens of thousands of people annually. CFP is caused by the consumption of seafood (primarily reef fish) contaminated with ciguatoxins. Gambiertoxins, precursors of ciguatoxins produced by the (sub)tropical benthic dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus, enter reef food webs when herbivores and detritivores consume Gambierdiscus directly or indirectly by grazing on macroalgae. These precursor molecules are transferred to higher trophic levels by bioaccumulation, bioconversion and biomagnification until they reach predatory finfish species that are targeted in many commercial and recreational fisheries. When people subsequently consume the contaminated fish, they are exposed to the toxins, thereby experiencing CFP. Historically, CFP outbreaks have been linked with warm water temperatures and coral reef impacts, including hurricane events. The recent passage of Hurricane Dorian over the Bahamas presents a significant opportunity to study how Gambierdiscus populations change in response to damage caused by this massive storm. Our current knowledge suggests that once a coral reef is denuded of coral tissue, it will soon be colonized by opportunistic algae, including Gambierdiscus. Our preliminary data suggest that as few as 16 cells of the highly toxic G. silvae need to be present per gram wet weight seaweed (algae) to result in toxic levels of ciguatoxin in fish tissue. Therefore, it is critical to monitor this toxigenic species to assess the threat of CFP to local populations who may be struggling for food resources after this traumatic hurricane event. CFP is a well-known malady in the Bahamas (affecting hundreds of Bahamians annually), hence these post-hurricane human health risks should be addressed in the very near future. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to determine if G. silvae (and associated toxigenic algal epiphyte communities) were influenced by Hurricane Dorian, and if the hurricane has elevated the risk of CFP in the Bahamas.
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 33 - Oceans and Human Health
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications No publications associated with this grant
Program Officer Frederick Tyson
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