Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Monster Seminar JAM

Event Information

Monster Seminar JAM - From Chemical Warfare, Spies, and Drugs; and the Tropics to the Cold North Pacific: A history of Marine Biotoxin Research at the NW Fisheries Science Center

Dr. Jack Wekell, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Long Description:
More Information:
Work on marine biotoxins here at the Center goes back to the late 1940s by the old Seattle Technological Laboratory. Work then centered on Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) and means to reduce or eliminate the toxins from processed shellfish, e.g., through canning. Some of this early work was done in conjunction with a sister laboratory/field station in Ketchikan, AK. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Ketchikan laboratory provided assistance and support to accumulate PSP toxins for the Chemical Warfare Corp of the U.S. Army in Fort Detrick, MD. This accumulated toxin (which has a story in itself worthy of a spy novel since it involved the CIA), consisting mostly of what is now known as saxitoxin, became the standard that is currently used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and regulatory labs in the United States. Biotoxin work in Seattle went into hibernation until the late 1960s when the Seattle Tech Lab, under its Director Dr. Maynard Steinberg, got involved in Ciguatera fish poisoning in Caribbean. This program was a joint effort with the then Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Research on marine biotoxins took on a different perspective in the 1970s, moving more to the aspect of attempting to find useful and potent compounds that might have pharmaceutical value (Drugs from the Sea). This work was focused more locally in Puget Sound. Biotoxin and marine natural product research went into a hiatus during the late 70s and to the late 80s. Marine Biotoxin research was given a boost by the infusion of Seafood Safety monies to the Center in the early 1990s. An outbreak of domoic acid poisoning, or Amnesiac Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), in Monterey Bay shifted our focus away from PSP to this new toxin: domoic acid. At the beginning of the 90s, our interests were focused on analytical methodology and surveillance of the coastal beaches for domoic acid. As we developed a picture of the spread and occurrence of domoic acid, our interests turned to causes of the blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia that caused this toxin. Grants from National Ocean Service for monitoring and surveillance and another grant from ECOHAB have now given the program a far better understanding on origins of this noxious diatom.

University of Washington
The Old Fisheries Center Auditorium (rm 201)
Seattle,  WA  98112

Date and Time:
Thursday, January 25, 2007, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Contact Person(s):
Blake Feist
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