Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)
Harmful algae do occur along the coast and estuaries of the Northwest. Some marine algae produce toxins (biotoxins) that can accumulate in shellfish that are feeding on the algae. Humans and other animals can be harmed if they eat shellfish harvested from such an area. In the Northwest, the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia, can produce the toxin domoic acid, which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), is caused by a toxin produced by a dinoflagellate marine algae, Alexandrium. Recently, the algae Dinophysis, which causes Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) has also become a species of concern in the Pacific Northwest. Other algal toxins can kill aqua-cultured fish, such as produced by the algal species Heterosigma akashiwo.
State agencies along the West Coast continually monitor shellfish for toxins and will close areas to shellfish harvest if toxins reach a certain minimum level.
State and local agencies along the West Coast continually monitor water quality and shellfish for toxins and will close areas to shellfish harvest if toxins reach a certain minimum level. In the Pacific Northwest, HAB events and the subsequent closing of beaches to shellfish harvest can have a major economic impact on communities which depend on shellfish aquaculture and tourism associated with recreational shellfish harvesting. Ongoing research and monitoring of HABs by NANOOS partners at the federal, tribal, state and local levels are working to:
- Build our understanding of the causes of HAB events
- Improve detection of HABs
- Better identify health risk from HABs
- Improve prediction of HAB events
- Protect human health and support the recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting industry and the communities potentially affected by HABs
Is Shellfish Safe?
Washington Shellfish Safety Information
Oregon Shellfish Closures
Timely information on harmful algal blooms in the PNW.
Detecting Harmful Algal Blooms in the Pacific Northwest
NANOOS Awarded Funds to Study 2015 West Coast Bloom
NOAA Funds HAB Forecasting System
Phytoplankton Bloom in Hood Canal 2016
NANOOS Ocean Technology Transfer Grant for 2014-2017
Overview of 2015 HAB Event
How are HABs Monitored?
Related NANOOS Products
The NANOOS Visualization System (NVS) provides easy access to forecast and observation data across a wide range of assets such as buoys, shore and land stations, high-frequency radar, and satellites.
Water Quality for Shellfish Growers
Access a wide range of water quality data tailored to the shellfish growing community.
Samish Bay Biosensor
The NWFSC Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is an advanced biosensor for micro-organisms, including those responsible for harmful algal blooms.
National Observing System Partners
Integrated Ocean Observing System IOOS