, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 834-853
Date: 10 Apr 2013

Environmental Influences on Faecal Indicator Organisms in Coastal Waters and Their Accumulation in Bivalve Shellfish

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Shellfish production areas are often located in shallow estuarine and coastal systems impacted by fluxes of faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) that exhibit extreme spatial and temporal variability. FIO abundance and distribution in the marine environment are determined by the combined effects of light intensity, water mixing, sewage content and suspended particulate matter. Favourable conditions for FIO survival are low solar radiation, low temperature, low salinity, low densities of micro-predators and high levels of organic matter. Rainfall is the parameter most commonly associated with peak levels of FIOs. Resuspension of contaminated sediments in the water column dominates FIO distribution in shallow and depositional estuaries during storm conditions. Water/flesh FIO ratios may differ between shellfish growing waters because salinities and water temperatures also influence filter-feeding activity. Data are lacking on the role of biological processes on FIOs uptake and clearance in shellfish, particularly during periods of good water quality. FIO accumulation is usually of higher magnitude in mussels and cockles than in oysters and surf clams. It is proposed that differences in FIO accumulation rates are associated with the biological activity and the position of shellfish in the water column in relation to the location of impacting pollution sources. Accurate information on catchment hydrology, land uses, FIO loads from sewerage-related sources and livestock production areas are required to adequately characterise the microbiological status of shellfisheries.