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Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Shellfish Poison Found In U.S. Waters Caused By Algal Bloom

New Shellfish Poison Found In U.S. Waters Caused By Algal Bloom.  If these food problems persist due to chemicals, radiation in the ocean waters and  exacerbated by climate changes, we will be faced with food shortages that will be overwhelmingly devastating to the populations throughout the world.   Not only those who consume them, but also those fisheries who make a living harvesting these products. 

"The bright red skull-and-crossbones signs are hard to miss and increasingly common on Pacific Northwest beaches. A whole new fleet just popped up along the shores of a small bay between the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound.
On Friday, Washington State health officials reported the first U.S. illnesses linked to one particular strain of toxin triggered by an algal bloom. Three people came down with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) after eating mussels from Sequim Bay, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The bay is now closed to shellfish harvesting.
Although the culprit biotoxin hadn't been previously detected at unsafe levels in U.S. shellfish, thousands of people in Europe, Asia and South America have reportedly suffered its unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms in recent years. The long-term health effects from DSP are not yet clear; some experts think they might include an increased risk of cancer.
"Whether this is really the first case of poisoning here, we don't know," said Vera Trainer, program manager of the Marine Biotoxin Group at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "But it certainly looks to me like things are getting worse."
Harmful algal blooms, often called red tides, can occur naturally in both marine or fresh waters, and have been a recognized public health threat since well before humans began significantly altering the environment. In the late 1700s, members of Capt. George Vancouver's exploration crew died after eating mussels contaminated with another toxic strain, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)."

"Excess nutrients entering the waterway, including fertilizers, pet waste and sewage, might also contribute to the proliferation of the microscopic marine plants. "A heavy rainfall could produce the last slug of nutrients for algae to start blooming in mass," said Moore.

While experts expect climate change to bring both warmer waters and episodes of heavier rains, they are cautious about making a direct link between global and local phenomena. The role of pollution, and why these microorganisms produce the poisons in the first place, also remains unclear.
What does seem clear is that the Pacific Northwest in particular is getting flooded with the toxins and their consequences: DSP joins the region's potentially fatal PSP and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) strains.
"Poor Puget Sound seems to have pretty much everything," says Trainer. "Although the Florida Red Tide has not yet come out here."
That Florida Red Tide produces a biotoxin that can cause non-fatal Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) through ingestion as well as respiratory troubles through inhalation, in addition to killing fish, marine mammals and seabirds en masse."

New Shellfish Poison Found In U.S. Waters Caused By Algal Bloom.  Each year, the red tide comes in to the shores of the Pacific and folks are warned to not eat the shellfish
during the months from May through September.  I have seen these signs posted myself, and am glad that the fishing community is careful to warn against contaminated seafood.  Some people have gotten desperately ill when ignoring the hazards.  

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