Beware the Giant Toxic Algae Bloom
Humans and animals on the west coast should take care when near the water. One of the largest algae blooms of all time is producing dangerous toxins which now stretch from California to Alaska. The neurotoxin being released by the bloom is called domoic acid, and it can cause a series of problems for any mammal that comes into contact with it.
Here is how it spreads: algae from the bloom finds a home in shellfish and smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines. Those creatures can then transfer the toxin to sea lions, birds, dolphins and various other creatures. In California, the toxin is being held responsible for large number of sea lion deaths, strandings and malnourished cubs.
Shellfish harvests, crabbing and fisheries have nearly ground to a halt as oceanographers seek to understand how this bloom became so enormous.
NOAA Oceanographer Vera Trainer called the levels “scary” and told reporters in Seattle that, “We’re seeing effects on marine ecosystem we haven’t seen before.” She went on to say that unlike normal algae blooms, this one is not dissipating, but rather sticking around near the shore.
Some scientists have speculated that an unseasonably warm spring is to blame for the algae bloom. Others think that ‘The Blob,’ a section of the North Pacific that is about two degrees warmer than the surrounding water, could be responsible for the size of the bloom.
Not Just Your Average Red Tide
Red Tides, caused by algae blooms which often create the appearance of red water, are common on coasts around the globe. However, not all Red Tides are toxic. In the Pacific Northwest, Red Tides are a common yearly occurrence and during this time residents who live near the water are warned not to dig for clams or consume shellfish.
What makes this occurrence so spectacular compared to the usual seasonal Red Tide is the sheer concentration and the size. For those that live near the water and often head down to the shore with pets, be careful. There are warnings that for humans and pets that come into contact with the water it can cause rashes, sore throats, stomach issues and eye irritation.
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.
Beach image via Shutterstock.