Two scientists from the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute (KORDI) visited the NOAA/NOS/NCCOS Marine Biotoxins Program laboratory in Charleston, SC April 2 – 6 to develop a detection method for the fish-killing dinoflagellate Heterocapsa. This organism causes devastating fish kills in neighboring Japanese waters and is considered a high potential threat to the economically critical Korean aquaculture industry. Korea has recently elevated the need for an effective means to monitor for the presence of Heterocapsa. This same dinoflagellate is also common in US waters; however, no fish kills attributed to this species have been reported.
The approach adopted by US and Korean researchers combines the design and application of species-specific molecular probes for Heterocapsa using a FlowCAM instrument. This equipment is produced by a US company, Fluid Imaging Technologies, Inc. and automatically detects, images and counts cells labeled with a fluorescent marker. This technology provides sensitive and accurate monitoring of water samples for Heterocapsa as a surveillance strategy for the aquaculture industry and coastal resource managers.
Later this year, NOAA scientists will travel to Korea in order to evaluate the performance of the FlowCAM instrument in the KORDI laboratory, as well as test and validate the Heterocapsa detection method using culture material and field samples acquired from Japanese colleagues. This effort is conducted as part of a Marine Ecosystem Health Assessment project, supported under the long standing Joint Project Agreement between NOAA and the South Korean Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs first initiated in 2001.