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NOAA Awards Emergency Funding to Aid New England Red Tide Response

NOAA is taking steps to respond to the New England red tide in the Gulf of Maine that has caused a near-complete shutdown of shellfish harvesting in Maine. Today the agency awarded $121,000 to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in partnership with the University of Maine to conduct research cruises to monitor the toxins. The information obtained will help managers determine how long the severe red tide conditions may last, if there are regions where the bloom is receding, and whether the bloom will expand to new areas.

New England red tide, caused by the toxic algae Alexandrium, produces potent neurotoxins that accumulate in clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish. A severe and sometimes fatal illness, called paralytic shellfish poisoning (or PSP), can occur in humans who eat shellfish contaminated with the toxin. States have well-established, rigorous shellfish monitoring programs to protect human health, so consumers are assured that commercially available shellfish are safe for consumption.

Signs like these will appear in areas that have been closed due to high levels of toxin in shellfish.

Signs like these will appear in areas that have been closed due to high levels of toxin in shellfish. (Credit: NOAA)

This emergency funding supports sampling, mapping and forecasting of red tide location and intensity, which will help state managers focus their sampling efforts in areas that have the greatest opportunity to reopen for harvesting. The intent is to minimize economic impacts while maintaining strong human health protections from PSP.

Related NCCOS Center(s):
Shorter web link for sharing: http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/news/?p=712

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