Posted by: Vicki Burns | November 8, 2016

Freshwater Algal Toxin Infecting Shellfish in Marine Coastal Areas

The toxin microcystin, produced by some species of blue-green algae, has been found in mussels in San Francisco Bay in concentrations that exceed guidelines for consumption. This is significant in that shellfish along California’s coast are routinely tested for toxins coming from saltwater algae, like red tide, but have not been tested for the freshwater toxins from blue-green algae. The possible ramifications of this are widespread as the incidence of blue-green algae and the resultant toxins have been increasing throughout North America. Many of the rivers and lakes infected with toxic algae drain into coastal waters. In Florida the toxic algae blooms have hit the coast in several areas, closing beaches and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency in parts of the state the summer of 2016.Mussels densely packed on the rocks at Bedruthan Steps
I’m writing about this because it is one more red flag pointing to the urgency that we should be bringing to bear on the growing problem of blue-green algae. The solutions to decreasing this problem are within our control but to date actions to implement the solutions have been slow. Improving sewage treatment, adopting best management practices in agriculture and stopping the altering of landscapes through wetland drainage are some of the most important and “doable” actions.


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