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Virtual Workshop Empowers Arctic Tribal Communities to Monitor Growing Threat of Harmful Algal Blooms

Published on: 03/02/2021

NCCOS scientists, in collaboration with Ocean and Earth Environmental Services, conducted a virtual workshop in January to introduce members of the Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) to methods and techniques for monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their toxins.

NSHC is an inter-tribal organization serving 19 tribes in the Norton Sound region along the Bering Sea coast of western Arctic Alaska. NSHC aims to protect their subsistence lifestyle through the development and implementation of tribal natural resource management programs that ensure conservation and stewardship of natural resources in traditional use areas of the Norton Sound region.

Pacific blue mussels from Alaska. Credit: U.S. National Park Service.

The NSHC tribal monitoring program will be modeled after the successful Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project in Southeast Alaska, where NCCOS successfully transferred validated testing methods in 2013. The SEATOR group provides continual HAB toxin information to local tribes to support the safety of traditional or subsistence harvested shellfish.

The two-day workshop had 15 participants. The first day of the meeting was an introduction to HABs, potential toxins in the Arctic, phytoplankton and shellfish sampling methods, and methods to measure toxins. The second day was for phytoplankton identification of both marine and freshwater HABs.

In Fiscal Year 2021, NCCOS will provide additional workshops for transferring monitoring and testing methods to NSHC, assist in equipment procurement and laboratory design, and guide proficiency testing for independent operation of the NSHC laboratory. The goal of this project is to empower communities to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms by transferring validated, mitigation methods to them.

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