Toxic Algae Bloom in Pacific Ocean Could Be Largest Ever

Source: Mortadelo2005 - Wikimedia Commons

U.S. government biologists are undertaking an expedition to research the largest toxic algae bloom along the West Coast in more than decade. The bloom has caused the closure of some shellfish harvests along the coast from Central California to Washington and is threatening to reach as far as Alaska.

Domoic acid can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in high enough quantities. Anchovies and sardines that feed on the algae can accumulate the toxin. In turn, sea lions and birds that eat those fish can then get sick.

Biologists will be trying to determine whether the unprecedented magnitude of the bloom is related to warm water conditions offshore.

The scientists will be examining levels of marine toxins and collecting water and algae samples in hopes of gaining some understanding of the causes of the bloom. The expedition is a cooperative effort of the NOAA, the University of California-Santa Cruz, the University of Washington, as well as the Quileute and Makah tribes in Washington.