Unprecedented Algae Bloom Blamed For Marine Mammal Poisoning In Northwest
Scientists have found dozens of poisoned dolphins, whales and sea lions off the West Coast this year. They tested positive for a toxin caused by a massive algae bloom.
Toxic domoic acid is produced by algae in the ocean, and this year the algae are thriving in the largest bloom ever recorded here. Marine mammals are poisoned when they eat fish that are contaminated.
In May, scientists found a sea lion suffering from a toxin-induced seizure at Long Beach, Washington – the first time this level of poisoning has been documented in the Northwest.
Kathi Lefebvre of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center says the algae blooms are associated with warmer water.
“And that’s why I think it’s scary. Are we going to go into a new trend that hasn’t been in the past? And now we’re going to be seeing more contamination of the food web even farther north and affecting more marine mammals.”
High levels of domoic acid prompted shellfish fishery closures in Oregon and Washington this year.
Domoic acid in marine wildlife on West Coast during a record-setting bloom of toxic algae in 2015.
Credit NOAA Fisheries
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