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Sentinel Site Alerts California Public to Toxic Shellfish

Routine sampling of marine mussels from a University of California sentinel site at the Santa Cruz Wharf prompted the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to issue a health advisory warning for domoic acid poisoning due to high levels of the toxin in shellfish samples.

The April 4, 2014 advisory warned consumers not to eat recreationally harvested shellfish such as mussels, clams, or whole scallops from Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The Marine Mammal Center also reported several sea lions from the Monterey Bay region suffering from domoic acid poisoning. Humans and marine mammals exposed to this algal toxin can suffer amnesic shellfish poisoning, which affects the brain, causing lethargy, disorientation, and seizures that can result in death.

The Santa Cruz Wharf mussel sentinel site is funded in part by NCCOS. The CDPH takes advantage of the mussel sentinel site to issue warnings or quarantines for recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting around Monterey Bay and the popular NOAA Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

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