Feb 1 2016

Harmful Algal Blooms: A Sign of Things to Come?

Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine algae that produces a toxin called demoic acid. Excess production of pseudo-nitzchia can result in a harmful algal bloom such as the one that shut down shellfish fisheries along the U.S. West Coast last year. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Image of scientists deploying robot that monitors the water for harmful algal blooms. Scientists from NOAA Fisheries and the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab have developed the Environmental Sample Processor, a robot that monitors the water for harmful algal blooms. This one is being deployed in Puget Sound, just north of Seattle. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Stephanie Moore.

Last year, a vast mass of poisonous algae bloomed off the West Coast, from California to Alaska. One of the largest of its kind ever recorded in the region, the bloom shut down shellfish fisheries all along the coast, impacted the livelihoods of fishermen, and threatened the health of many marine mammals.

Harmful algal blooms happen when a species of algae that produces toxins grows out of control. Although last year’s bloom has begun to subside, and Dungeness crab and other valuable fisheries have begun to re-open, climate change is still warming the ocean. Warmer water means faster-growing algae, and if climate projections are correct, it’s likely that we’ll see more of these blooms in the future.

Vera Trainer is an oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle. In this podcast, Trainer describes some of the measures that NOAA Fisheries and other agencies are taking to help coastal communities adapt to a changing future.

Transcript: Harmful Algal Blooms, A Sign of Things to Come?

Listen to the podcast: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/podcasts/2016/01/habs_with_vera_trainer.html

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