Stony Brook, NY, April 15, 2011 – As reported in Newsday, researchers studying the waters of Long Island's Northport Harbor say they've found a second type of harmful algae in the water never seen before at these levels in New York. The algae, Dinophysis acuminata, produces a toxin that could cause stomach sickness in humans who ingest infected shellfish.
"The levels we saw in Northport Harbor in 2010 are higher than we've seen anywhere else" in New York, said Chris Gobler, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University and an expert on harmful algal blooms.
In a recently completed two-year New York Sea Grant and Long Island Sound Study-funded project, Gobler examined another harmful algal bloom, Alexandrium fundyense, in nearshore and open water regions of Long Island Sound. Gobler’s focus was on the distribution, causes and impacts of this red tide algae, a serious, emerging human health threat that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by the ingestion by shellfish of certain strains of algae which produce saxitoxin. Shellfish accumulate this toxin and can, when these contaminated shellfish are consumed by humans or another predator, cause sickness or even death. Alexandrium fundyense is the saxitoxin-producing plankton in the coastal waters of Long Island Sound. In recent years there have been widespread commercial and recreational closures of shellfisheries resulting from outbreaks of this organism.
Using a combination of field-based sampling and laboratory experiments, the research provided information on the distribution and progression of the red tide algae and its cysts.
Preliminary results suggest that dormant cysts of Alexandrium fundyense were present in sediment beds in many Long Island Sound embayments. Further results seem to suggest that nutrients enhance growth and production of the red tide algae cells.
This research should give fisheries managers and local health departments the essential information they need to protect human health and sustain healthy ecosystems and local economies.
New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a statewide network of integrated research, education, and extension services promoting the coastal economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness about the State's marine and Great Lakes resources, is currently in its 40th year of "Bringing Science to the Shore." NYSG, one of 32 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a cooperative program of the State University of New York and Cornell University.
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