Despite an unexpectedly large algae bloom that shut down clam beds in Down East Maine several weeks ago, the 2011 red tide season has been relatively mild and could end early thanks to the current spate of hot and sunny weather.
Darcie Couture, who directs the Maine Department of Marine Resources' biotoxin monitoring program, said red tide blooms followed fairly typical patterns this year as they forced the closure of many of the traditionally hard-hit shellfish beds.
But the massive, widespread blooms that prohibited shellfish harvesting in large areas for lengthy periods in 2008 and 2009 never materialized. And if current conditions hold, most Maine waters could be largely free of the toxic algae weeks or even months earlier than normal.
'Optimistically, if things go well and if we don't get any additional impacts from Canada, we could see closures lifted during the end of July or early August,' Couture said.
Red tide is caused by a type of algae native to Maine and many other coastal areas. During large-scale blooms that drift into near-shore waters, shellfish can absorb the algae into their tissues as they filter-feed, causing them to become toxic and even potentially fatal to humans.