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In computer models and observations, researchers see potential for significant 'red tide' season
Date:4/24/2008

The end of April usually brings the first signs of harmful algae in New England waters, and this year, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and North Carolina State University (NC State) are preparing for a potentially big bloom.

A combination of abundant beds of algal seeds and excess winter precipitation have set the stage for a harmful algal bloom similar to the historic red tide of 2005, according to researchers from WHOI and NC State. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from the Bay of Fundy to Marthas Vineyard for several months and caused an estimated $50 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone. The weather patterns over the next few weeks will determine whether this years algal growth approaches the troubles of 2005.

The research teamled by WHOI senior scientists Don Anderson and Dennis McGillicuddy and physical oceanographer Ruoying He of NC Stateis several years into the development of a computer model to predict the intensity and location of blooms the toxic algae Alexandrium fundyense in the Gulf of Maine. Though the scientists are reluctant to make an official forecast until they can further test their models, colleagues in coastal management and fisheries believe the seasonal forecasting model can already serve as a useful tool for preparing the seafood industry for contingencies.

With advance warning of a potentially troublesome year for algae, shellfish farmers and fishermen might shift the timing of their harvest or postpone plans for expansion of aquaculture beds, said Anderson, director of the WHOI Coastal Ocean Institute. Restaurants might make contingency plans for supplies of seafood during the summer, and state agencies can ensure they have adequate staff for the significant monitoring efforts that might be required to protect public health and the shellfish industry.

Seeds or cysts of A. fundyense naturally germinate and turn into swimming cell
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Contact: Mike Carlowicz
mcarlowicz@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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