U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Harmful algal blooms of the Benguela eastern boundary upwelling system

Grant C. Pitcher, Deon C. Louw
Harmful algae 2021 v.102 pp. 101898
Alexandrium catenella, Alexandrium minutum, Dinophysis acuminata, Dinophysis fortii, Gonyaulax, Karenia, Prorocentrum, abalone, algal blooms, anaerobic conditions, biomass, birds, coasts, diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, domoic acid, ecosystems, farms, human health, mortality, plankton, poisoning, poisonous algae, shellfish, yessotoxin
The Benguela Upwelling System (BUS) is subject to a high incidence of HABs. Of the major shellfish poisoning syndromes associated with HABs, Paralytic and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP and DSP) pose the greatest concern, but as documented herein there are several other HAB organisms that are also present. Blooms of Alexandrium catenella have been recognised as the typical cause of PSP since 1948. In addition to the risk posed to human health A. catenella has also been the cause of large shellfish and bird mortalities. An additional risk of PSP is provided by Alexandrium minutum first detected in Cape Town harbour in 2003. DSP was identified on the South African coast for the first time in 1991. Although several Dinophysis spp. known to cause DSP have been recognized as a component of the plankton of the region, it is accepted that DSP is usually attributed to D. acuminata or D. fortii. In the southern Benguela both Pseudo-nitzschia australis and Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries have been identified and shown to produce domoic acid. Multiple Pseudo-nitzschia spp. have been identified in the northern Benguela with the potentially toxigenic Pseudo-nitzschia pungens and P. australis dominant inshore. The yessotoxin (YTX) producing dinoflagellates Gonyaulax spinifera, Lingulodinium polyedrum and Protoceratium reticulatum are all known to form blooms and YTXs have been the cause of massive mortalities of farmed abalone. Prominent fish-killing blooms include Karlodinium veneficum in the northern Benguela and Karenia cristata in the southern Benguela. Shellfish farms in an embayment of the southern Benguela have suffered reduced growth rates due to the ecosystem disruptive blooms of Aureococcus anophagefferens. High biomass dinoflagellate blooms often attributed to Tripos and Prorocentrum spp. characterise the entire region and major mortalities of marine life are regularly attributed to their decay and the subsequent development of anoxic conditions.