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Overview of Australian and New Zealand harmful algal species occurrences and their societal impacts in the period 1985 to 2018, including a compilation of historic records

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:01 authored by Gustaaf HallegraeffGustaaf Hallegraeff, Schweibold, L, Jaffrezic, E, Rhodes, L, MacKenzie, L, Hay, B, Farrell, H

Similarities and differences between Australia and New Zealand in Harmful Algal species occurrences and Harmful Algal Events impacting on human society (HAEDAT) are reported and factors that explain their differences explored. Weekly monitoring of harmful phytoplankton and biotoxins commenced in Australia in 1986 and in New Zealand in 1993. Anecdotal historic HAB records in both countries are also catalogued. In Australia, unprecedented highly toxic Paralytic Shellfish Toxin (PST)-producing blooms of Alexandrium catenella have impacted the seafood industry along the 200 km east coast of Tasmania from 2012 to present. Toxic blooms in 1986-1993 by Gymnodinium catenatum in Tasmania were effectively mitigated by closing the affected area for shellfish farming, while a bloom by this same species in 2000 in New Zealand caused significant economic damage from restrictions on the movement of greenshell mussel spat. The biggest biotoxin event in New Zealand was an unexpected outbreak of Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) in 1993 in Hauraki Gulf (putatively due to Karenia cf. mikimotoi) with 180 reported cases of human poisonings as well as reports of respiratory irritation north of Auckland. Strikingly, NSP never recurred in New Zealand since and no NSP events have ever been reported in Australia. In New Zealand, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) was the predominant seafood toxin syndrome, while in Australia Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) was the major reported seafood toxin syndrome, while no CFP has been recorded from consumption of New Zealand fish. In Australia, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) illnesses were recorded from two related outbreaks in 1997/98 following consumption of beach harvested clams (pipis) from a previously non-monitored area, whereas in New Zealand limited DSP illnesses are known. No human illnesses from Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) have been reported in either Australia or New Zealand. Selected examples of HABs appearing and disappearing (NSP in New Zealand, Alexandrium catenella in Tasmania), species expanding their ranges (Noctiluca, Gambierdiscus), and reputed ballast water introductions (Gymnodinium catenatum) are discussed. Eutrophication has rarely been invoked as a cause except for confined estuaries and fish ponds and estuarine cyanobacterial blooms. No trend in the number of HAEDAT events from 1985 to 2018 was discernible.


Publication title

Harmful Algae



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Aquaculture molluscs (excl. oysters); Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in coastal and estuarine environments; Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems