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NOAA Helps Improve Alaskan Biotoxin Testing Program

A series of workshops were held April 25-27, 2012 in Sitka, Alaska to inform shellfish growers, high school teachers and representatives of the Sitka Tribe for the purpose of  expanding the existing Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Partnership.  The partnership is a collaborative project with the NOAA Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN), NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center, University of Alaska, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Department of Environmental Control (ADEC) and Alaska Department of Epidemiology (ADEP). An implementation meeting was also held with ADEC and ADEP to coordinate the monitoring activities of state personnel and volunteers.

The ADEC requested phytoplankton monitoring be added to the new state biotoxins contingency plan following the detection by volunteers of Alexandrium cells, the causative agent of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), before PSP cases were documented in 2011. PMN protocols will be adopted to provide an early warning system for detecting known HAB causing species and will trigger biotoxin testing by ADEC.  Currently, ADEC samples only commercially harvested shellfish and crabs for the presence of toxins.  In 2011 and 2012, local residents became ill after eating shellfish harvested from officially closed recreational beds as a result of PSP poisoning.

See also: Alaska Toxic Algae Event Endangers Public Health

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