New Forecast and Mobile HAB Lab will Alert Puget Sound Officials to Toxic Algae
Two new research projects in Puget Sound to better understand and manage outbreaks of harmful algae that threaten public health and fisheries are being funded by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. The goal of one project is to develop forecasts of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, based on the occurrence of seed-like cysts and using hydrodynamic models. A. catenella produces potent neurotoxins that accumulate in shellfish causing a potentially fatal illness in humans who eat them.
The neurotoxin frequently forces harvesting closures of productive shellfisheries in Puget Sound. Early warning facilitates monitoring and minimizes threats to public health and local economies. The second project will identify the toxin and the factors enhancing toxicity of the fish-killing alga Heterosigma akashiwo. A mobile laboratory will be built and sent to the coast when sightings occur so the alga can be studied in its most active stages.
Heterosigma has killed millions of aquaculture fish in Puget Sound since 1989, and has recently been implicated in the decline of a major natural salmon run. The research will lead to new strategies for mitigating the impact of Heterosigma blooms on wild and farmed fish.