New England is expected to experience a "moderate" red tide this spring and summer, report NOAA-funded scientists studying the toxic algae that cause blooms in the Gulf of Maine. The "red tide" is caused by an alga Alexandrium fundyense, which produces a toxin that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Red tide typically occurs annually along some portions of the Gulf of Maine coast. This year's outlook is similar to the 2012 red tide which was also classified as "moderate."
As with the past five forecasts for this region, the 2013 outlook is based on the quantities of the A. fundyense in its cyst (dormant) state detected in Gulf of Maine sediments last fall. These data are combined with a computer model to produce a range of bloom scenarios based on previous years' conditions. This year, the team also used a forecast of toxicity impact developed from 34 years of historical data as part of the 2013 outlook. The 2013 bloom is expected to fall somewhere in the middle in terms of toxicity impact, justifying a "moderate" forecast done by the established method.
"This region is very fortunate to have a long time series of cyst abundance data, toxicity records in shellfish, and long-term measurements of ocean conditions from ships and moored instrumented buoys to develop these two complementary approaches to the seasonal forecast," said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) biologist Don Anderson.
The forecast team emphasizes the need to consult state and local management agencies for updated harvesting closure information. In order to protect public health, shellfish beds are closed when toxicities rise above a quarantine level, often during the peak harvesting season. Due to effective monitoring by state agencies, there have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years, despite some severe blooms during that time period. There have been, however, several severe poisonings of individu
|Contact: WHOI Media Relations|
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution