The Harmful Algae Monitoring Program (HAMP) started in 1999 on the impetus of BC salmon farming companies, who had started losing fish to harmful algal blooms almost as soon as they started aquaculture operations in the area. The program was initiated under the aegis of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and developed by Dr JNC ‘Ian’ Whyte and Nicky Haigh. Since 2004 HAMP has been run independently by Nicky Haigh and Microthalassia / Nixy Consulting. HAMP is totally funded by the participant BC salmon aquaculture companies.

HAMP has a triple mandate: regular monitoring of selected sites near or at salmon farms with collection of phytoplankton and environmental data; real-time monitoring of fish-killing blooms, and identification of causative species in support of salmon aquaculture companies; and education of farm personnel on sampling and identification of marine phytoplankton, especially those species that have been seen to be harmful to local fish.

Since 1999, HAMP has monitored between 11 and 28 BC coastal sites (since 2006 ~15 sites) weekly, from spring to fall. Sampling sites may change from year to year; there have been a total of 68 sampled, with 29 sites sampled for three years or more, and 8 sites for 10 years or more. Water samples are taken by farm personnel and sent to Microthalassia for microscopic analysis. Samples are analysed to assess the overall plankton level and balance of different phytoplankton groups, plus enumeration of harmful and dominant species. This data is reported back to the farm companies immediately, plus compiled for all sites weekly and annually.

In 1999 known HAB species affecting salmon aquaculture in BC were usually thought to be limited to the raphidophyte Heterosigma akashiwo and the harmful diatoms Chaetoceros convolutus and C. concavicornis. Since then fish-killing bloom samples to HAMP have helped us to add approximately eight species to that list, including the dinoflagellates Cochlodinium fulvescens and Alexandrium catenella, the raphidophyte Chattonella sp., and dictyochophytes Dictyocha speculum, D. fibula, and Pseudochattonella cf. verruculosa.

Education of farm personnel, since the beginning of HAMP, is done in the spring, when Nicky Haigh holds a series of plankton identification workshops at sites around Vancouver Island and in the Central Coast area. These 3-hour workshops are either held on the farm site or in nearby facilities and teach farm workers about the local harmful algae species and how to identify them. The “HAMP Travelling Show” comes equipped with live and preserved plankton samples and uses the microscopes of the farm companies to train the farmers how to do their daily on-site sampling. From early April to the end of June 2013, Nicky held 33 HAMP workshops with a total of 253 participants. Starting in 2014 we will be instituting an online course for continuing education.

In addition, HAMP participants are supplied with copies of the HAMP Harmful Plankton Handbook by Nicky Haigh, which is updated annually to provide the most up-to-date information on local harmful algae species.

Interested in HAMP?