Home > news > NCCOS Prepares Toxin Sensor for Gulf of Maine Red Tide Forecasting

NCCOS Prepares Toxin Sensor for Gulf of Maine Red Tide Forecasting

Published on: 05/05/2015
Research Area(s): Marine Spatial Ecology
Primary Contact(s): greg.doucette@noaa.gov

An NCCOS technical expert completed critical calibrations of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxin sensor for an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) platform stationed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Laboratory for Ocean Sensors and Observing Systems (LOSOS). Beginning in early May, this ESP willperformautonomous, near real-time monitoring of toxins associated with cells of the red tide alga, Alexandrium fundyensefor six weeks in the Gulf of Maine.

Left, NCCOS scientist, Tina Mikulski, calibrates an Environmental Sample Processor at LOSOS. Right, diagram of ESP as deployed in the Gulf of Maine.  (Credit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Left, NCCOS scientist, Tina Mikulski, calibrates an Environmental Sample Processor at LOSOS. Right, diagram of ESP as deployed in the Gulf of Maine. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Alexandrium produces PSP toxins that contaminate shellfish and pose a serious human health threat, often leading to extensive and costly harvesting closures by rigorous state-run monitoring programs. Calibration of the PSP toxin sensor is essential for obtaining reliable, quantitative estimates of Alexandrium toxicity, which can vary with environmental conditions.

Data on Alexandrium toxicity and cell abundance transmitted from the ESP’s offshore location will be distributed to coastal resource and fisheries managers and help provide an early warning of impending shellfish toxicity in the area. This ESP and two additional instruments detecting only Alexandrium cells will bedeployed alongside instrumented buoys operated by the IOOS-Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), providingvaluable physical and chemical data. Collectively, this information will supplement weekly experimental red tide forecast updates based on predictive models, with the aim of transitioning to an operational NOAA HAB forecasting system for the Gulf of Maine.

For more information, contact Greg.Doucette@noaa.gov.

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