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Helping Texas Address an Unusual Harmful Algal Bloom

The Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research’s Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Event Response Program provided assistance to Texas state managers during an unprecedented diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) event. The HAB Event Response funding supported sampling and analysis to document this unique event and to help the state determine when shellfish were again safe for harvesting. The event was caused by a bloom of the dinoflagellate, Dinophysis acuminata, which produces a toxin called okadaic acid that can accumulate in shellfish and cause DSP in human consumers. D. acuminata has never been seen at such concentrated bloom levels in this region. It was first detected by scientists from Texas A&M University, who were demonstrating a new in situ detection technology, supported by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology, a partnership between NOAA’s National Ocean Service and the University of New Hampshire. The early detection of this species protected human health by allowing managers to issue a timely recall of potentially contaminated oysters, clams, and mussels from the Fulton Oysterfest, a local Oyster festival in Aransas County, Texas, and to close the Aransas, Corpus Christi, and Copano bays to harvesting. Scientists from NOAA’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment also modeled potential transport of the bloom to nearby regions to help the state develop monitoring and sampling strategies to minimize negative effects on the economy and health of local residents. Results from the HAB Event Response Program are informing development of a protocol by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for Dinophysis bloom response to be added to the Texas HAB Response Plan.

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