• Dinoflagellate cysts in Irish coastal sediments - a preliminary report

      O'Mahony, J.H.; Silke, J. (1993)
      Since the mid 1970's the production of bivalve shellfish in Ireland has increased annually to a present level of some 17,000 tonnes. Several problems limit the continued expansion of the industry, most notably the problem of natural biotoxins. These toxins are accumulated in the product by the ingestion of toxic phytoplankton. This causes no obvious ill effects to the shellfish themselves but upon consumption may be transferred to human or other vertebrate consumers causing illness and sometimes death. In Ireland the most common of the toxins are those associated with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) which causes diarrhoea. Other more serious toxins which to date have not been confirmed in Ireland are those associated with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) which causes paralysis or even death and Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) which causes short term memory loss. Of the phytoplankton species which can result in toxicity, under both bloom and non bloom conditions, the dinoflagellates play an important role. Many of these dinoflagellates have been shown to include a dormant benthic cyst stage in their life cycle. Therefore a better understanding of the dynamics of toxic events may be obtained by studying the distribution and abundance of benthic cysts. There is growing international concern about the transport of harmful aquatic organisms, including cysts, into new areas via the discharge of ships ballast water. Also, as a result of EC directive 91/67/EEC permitting the free movement of shellfish between EU member states there is now increasing concern in Ireland that harmful cysts may be introduced with shipments of imported shellfish. Little research has been carried out on the distribution of dinoflagellate cysts in Irish marine sediments. In this paper preliminary results of a study designed to map the distribution and undertake taxonomic studies on dinoflagellate and other cysts in Ireland are presented and discussed. Also presented are the results of the examination of cysts associated with imported shellfish.