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Investigating PSP Toxicity in Lobster Tomalley during 2008 Alexandrium Outbreak

During the large New England Red Tide of 2008, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and the Food and Drug Administration issued advisory warnings against eating lobster tomalley—the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters—after preliminary analyses revealed high levels of the toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in tomalley of some lobsters. The Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Program awarded funds to the Maine Department of Marine Resources to investigate the geographic extent of PSP toxins in lobster tomalley in Maine and New Hampshire waters, the dietary source of the toxins for lobsters, and toxin retention time in lobster tissues. These data were critical to help managers issue accurate advisories to protect human health, without unnecessary economic harm to the lobster fishery. Also, this research provided preliminary data to justify more detailed studies in the future (funded by Federal red tide disaster relief) that will improve management of the fishery.

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