Algae Monitoring Protects Oregon Recreational Shellfish Gatherers–For Now
On July 6th, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced the closure of recreational mussel harvesting for over 120 miles of Oregon Coast from Tillamook Head south to Heceta Head due to elevated levels of paralytic shellfish toxins (PST). The closure includes mussels found on the beaches, rocks, jetties, and bay entrances in this section of the Oregon coast. ODA received the early warning about this algae bloom from a NOAA-funded monitoring program led by Oregon State University and ODFW.
Over the last month, ODFW had observed rising levels of Alexandrium (an algal species that produces paralytic toxins) cells in the water off several popular recreational shellfish harvesting beaches. Based on past experience, Fish and Wildlife correctly predicted that the rise in cells would lead to shellfish toxicity that exceeds regulatory limits. They warned Oregon’s agriculture officials about the potential for a toxic algae event and ODA increased its shellfish testing frequency. ODA will continue to monitor shellfish and will announce any additional closures.
ODFW nearshore algae monitoring has been supported by a five-year NOAA grant from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), known as Monitoring Oregon Coastal Harmful Algae (MOCHA). Despite the well documented success of this program, ODFW cannot continue near shore HAB monitoring after current NOAA grant funds are exhausted this year.
For more information:
Oregon Shellfish Safety Closures: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/FSD/shellfish_status.shtml
NOAA MERHAB program: http://cop.noaa.gov/stressors/extremeevents/hab/current/fact-merhab.aspx
2010 Oregon coastal HAB event successfully predicted by ODFW and NOAA funded partners: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/dec10/oregon-habs.html