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Gulf of Maine Red Tide Monitoring Season Begins for NOS

Published on: 05/19/2016
Primary Contact(s): marc.suddleson@noaa.gov

Harmful algal bloom monitoring is underway in the Gulf of Maine, with near real-time early warning of potential toxic blooms being provided by three Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs). The ESPs operate like laboratories in a can, sampling cells and toxins produced by Alexandrium fundyense, the red tide alga. Data from the ESPs are used by Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts monitoring programs and the region’s shellfish industry. Shellfish harvest is regulated to prevent paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), a serious illness in humans who eat shellfish contaminated with the toxins produced by Alexandrium fundyense.

All three ESPs are monitoring and providing early warning for Alexandrium fundyense and Pseudo-nitzschia. “ESPjake” and “ESPdon” are also equipped with saxitoxin sensors . ESP data are sent directly to shellfish monitoring programs, and reported on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) website and Northeast PSP website .

Deploying an ESP array along Maine's Coast to Provide Early Warning of Gulf of Maine Red Tide Photo credit: Bruce Keafer, WHOI

Deploying an ESP along Maine’s coast to provide early warning of Gulf of Maine red tide. Credit: Bruce Keafer, WHOI.

“ESPjake” is in Harpswell Sound, Maine, co-located with a Maine Department of Marine Resources (ME DMR) mussel monitoring program site to determine the relationship between cell concentration and mussel toxicity. “ESPdon” is deployed offshore near ME DMR shellfish sampling sites in Casco Bay, and “ESPdennis” is near the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, upstream from Ogunquit, Maine.

This is the third year that NOAA has supported the harmful algal bloom early warning network in the Gulf of Maine. The ESP and toxin sensor technology was first tested in the Gulf of Maine in 2011, supported by the Integrated Ocean Observing System Ocean Technology Transition program. Similar systems are being deployed to improve harmful algal bloom early warning off the coast of Washington State and in Lake Erie. This is part of a NOAA ecological forecasting initiative that aims to deliver accurate, relevant, timely, and reliable ecological forecasts directly to coastal resource managers.

The 2016 Gulf of Maine ESP deployments are supported by the NCCOS Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Bloom ( MERHAB ) program, the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems ( NERACOOS ), and the National Science Foundation Partners for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program. The ESPs were deployed by Dr. Donald Anderson’s team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The toxin sensors were developed by NCCOS. Additional support is provided by Bowdoin College, Resource Access International, Inc., Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, McLane Research, Inc., EOM Offshore, Inc., and the WHOI buoy group.

For more information, contact Marc Suddleson .

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