Friday, June 19, 2015

Toxic algae blooms have shut down shellfish operations on West Coast

Toxic algae bloom stretching from Central California to British Columbia, and possibly into Alaska, "have shut down recreational and commercial shellfish harvests in Washington, Oregon and California this spring," Sandi Doughton reports for The Seattle Times. Federal biologists have reported seeing multiple types of toxins in what some are considering the largest case of toxic algae bloom recorded off the West Coast.

Scientists suspect unusually high temperatures for the increased algae, "along with 'the blob'—a vast pool of unusually warm water that blossomed in the northeastern Pacific late last year," Doughton writes. "The blob has morphed since then, but offshore waters are still about two degrees warmer than normal, said University of Washington climate scientist Nick Bond, who coined the blob nickname."

Michael Milstein, spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, told Tom Hallman of The Oregonian that all coastal Washington beaches "have been closed to razor clamming, at an estimated loss of more than $9 million in revenue for coastal communities in the past month alone." Milstein said Washington also has closed the coast to Dungeness crab harvesting. (Read more)

The Oregon Department of Agriculture "has closed all recreational molluscan shellfish (razor clams, other clams and scallops) harvesting from the Columbia River south to Tillamook Head, which includes all beaches, rocks, jetties and bays," reports Dennis Anstine for the News Times in Newport, Ore.

Hundreds of thousands of red tuna crabs have also "been washing up on Southern California beaches as warm ocean currents carry them farther north and closer to shore than usual," reports Reuters. "The plankton-eating crabs, native to the waters of the Gulf of California, Baja California and the California Current, are 2.5-7.6 cm long and resemble tiny lobsters."

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