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NOAA-supported Researcher Informs Gulf of Maine Fishermen of Harmful Algae Threat

Published on: 07/12/2013
Primary Contact(s): quay.dortch@noaa.gov

At the 39th Annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum, NCCOS-supported, Dr. Kate Hubbard, described a new, emerging harmful algal bloom (HAB) threat with possible future implications for shellfish harvesting in the Gulf of Maine.

Responding to this new HAB threat in the Gulf of Maine in August 2012, the NCCOS provided funding to Dr. Hubbard to map an unprecedented bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia, a sometimes toxic diatom that produces domoic acid. Domoic acid can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning when humans consume shellfish contaminated with domoic acid. Pseudo-nitzschia were first detected by the Maine volunteer phytoplankton monitoring network. Subsequent shellfish screening indicated domoic acid levels above regulatory limits, and a precautionary closure of shellfish harvesting along parts of the coast was instituted by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The NCCOS Phytoplankton Monitoring Network identified the species as sometimes toxic. Mapping and further toxin analyses indicated the bloom was not a public health threat and State officials quickly reopened shellfish harvesting.

Even though the 2012 bloom did not create a long closure, the states bordering the Gulf of Maine are now alerted to the need to monitor for Pseudo-nitzschia and its toxin. Dr. Hubbard, originally with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is now at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

For more information, contact Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov.

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