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Researchers report 'moderately large' potential for red tide outbreak in Gulf of Maine region
Date:4/22/2009

The potential for an outbreak of the phenomenon commonly called "red tide" is expected to be "moderately large" this spring and summer, according to researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and North Carolina State University (NCSU).

This advisory is based in part on a regional seafloor survey of quantities of Alexandrium fundyense the algae notorious for producing a toxin that accumulates in clams, mussels, and other shellfish and can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans who consume them. The survey maps are used with computer models that simulate different scenarios of weather and oceanographic conditions to indicate where and in what abundance the toxic cells might be expected in 2009.

The researchers found concentrations of Alexandrium cysts the dormant seed-like stage of the algae's life cycle in the Gulf of Maine to be 40 percent lower than the historically high levels observed prior to last year's bloom, but still higher than the level preceding a major regional bloom in spring 2006 that closed shellfish beds from Canada to Massachusetts Bay.

The Alexandrium survey has been conducted each fall since 2004 as part of several research and event response projects funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR). Fall concentrations of Alexandrium cysts are one of the indicators of the magnitude of a potential bloom in spring.

In October 2008, a survey team led by Don Anderson, a senior scientist in the WHOI Biology Department and the lead investigator of the Gulf of Maine Toxicity (GOMTOX) study, spent 10 days collecting seafloor sediment samples between Massachusetts Bay and the Bay of Fundy looking for Alexandrium cysts. After the samples were processed and analyzed, the team determined the cyst abundance to be about 40 percent lower than the high levels observed
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Contact: Media Relations
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert  

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