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New research to improve management of harmful algal blooms in Puget Sound
Date:8/3/2010

NOAA has awarded $543,336 for two competitive grants to better understand and manage outbreaks of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that threaten public health and fisheries in Puget Sound. The grants cover the first year of multi-year projects, anticipated to cost almost $1.5 million over the next three years.

NEW FORECAST TO ALERT AREA OFFICIALS TO TOXIC ALGA

The goal of one project is to develop a forecasting ability to identify which areas of Puget Sound are at risk of experiencing blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, which produces potent neurotoxins that accumulate in shellfish. Paralytic shellfish poisoning, a potentially fatal illness contracted by humans when they consume shellfish contaminated by the toxins, frequently forces harvesting closures of productive shellfisheries in Puget Sound.

Similar to an annual hurricane season prediction, this forecast will provide seasonal predictions of the severity and location of toxic blooms allowing public health and fisheries managers to plan and implement mitigation measures. It is based on annual surveys of seed-like Alexandrium cysts in sediments. The cysts form in autumn and sink to the bottom; blooms start the next spring when the cysts hatch. Cyst maps will be combined with information about the environmental conditions leading to cyst hatching and cell growth and models of water movements in Puget Sound.

"This kind of advanced warning will allow us to make proactive decisions to protect public health and make better use of resources," said Frank Cox, biotoxin expert with the Washington State Department of Health. "If fisheries managers know that the coming year is going to be "bad" for toxic events, they can choose to harvest earlier in the year before the bloom season begins to minimize economic losses associated with shellfish closures."

MOBILE LAB TO INVESTIGATE KEY DRIVER IN FISH-KILLING ALGA

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Contact: Ben Sherman
ben.sherman@noaa.gov
301-713-3066
NOAA Headquarters
Source:Eurekalert

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