The NCCOS Event Response Program is funding a project to assist the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other communities in southeast Alaska establish a harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program for recreational and subsistence shellfisheries. In October, two cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) were reported by the state and were linked to butter clams containing PSP toxins that were harvested for personal consumption from a beach near Sitka. Elevated PSP levels have prompted the state to close most southeast Alaska commercial shellfishery areas since the opening of the fall fishery. However, recreational and subsistence shellfishers in the region continue to get sick from PSP exposure in non-tested areas outside the commercial zone. Sitka and other southeast communities have turned to NOAA for help in establishing HAB monitoring programs to address this problem.
The NCCOS project will support a workshop for state and tribal resource and public health managers, where researchers from NOAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a contractor will provide expert guidance on running a HAB monitoring program, hands-on training on HAB cell identification, and advice on toxin detection methods. Support for NOAA participants will be provided by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.