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Innovative HAB Monitoring Tool Transferred to Washington State Will Improve Puget Sound Shellfish Management

Washington Department of Health (WDOH) is currently working on implementing a new method for monitoring toxic algae in Puget Sound. This molecular-based detection method, called qPCR, provides a sensitive and fast means for measuring the abundance of Alexandrium catenella that is accurate even at low cell densities.

Even small numbers of A. catenella cells can produce potent neurotoxins which can accumulate in shellfish and cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans making this algae a significant threat to public health and to shellfisheries vital to coastal economies. WDOH plans to use qPCR data to monitor cell numbers during the winter season as a way to provide an early warning for sites where PSP toxicity in shellfish might exceed regulatory limits.

Dr. Sonya Dyhrman, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution led the development and successful transfer of qPCR to state partners through a project funded by NCCOS Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Bloom (MERHAB).

Related NCCOS Center(s):
Shorter web link for sharing: http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/news/?p=1996

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