Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4571
Title: The impacts of paralytic shellfish poisoning on the Alaska shellfish industry and the implementation of an early warning system
Author: Vera L. Trainer, B.-T. Le Eberhart, Jeff Paternoster, Shuler Andrew, Emanuel Hignutt, John Kiser, Steve Morton
Other Contributor: Ginny Eckert, Steve Morton
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Journal of Shellfish Research
Keywords: harmful algal bloom,saxitoxin,toxin,Alaska,Ketchikan,PSP

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), the illness in humans and marine wildlife caused by eating shellfish contaminated with the algal toxins, saxitoxins, has been cited as a major barrier to developing an economically viable shellfish industry in Alaska. The cost of PSP to the commercial fishery, recreational harvest, and aquaculture surpasses $10 million annually. The illness of 26 and death of 2 people in southeast Alaska due to PSP in 2010 - 2012, illustrates the need for change in the way saxitoxin and its congeners, collectively called the paralytic shellfish toxins, are monitored and managed in Alaska. Here we describe the implementation of scientific monitoring partnership for the early warning of harmful algal blooms (HABs), including those that cause PSP, the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom (AHAB) monitoring network, and demonstrate its effectiveness and the need for its sustenance well into the future. AHAB’s tiered sampling approach involves the weekly microscopic observation of seawater samples, both whole water and net tows, for the presence of Alexandrium, followed by rapid toxin testing using a high throughput antibody-based test.  AHAB partners began monitoring in 2008 and thus were able to provide early warning to managers with details about Alexandrium cell concentrations, paralytic shellfish toxin concentrations in shellfish and seawater, and environmental conditions during a widespread PSP event in Ketchikan and the surrounding area in 2011. An effective and comprehensive communication network between AHAB and state managers, health professionals and the general public ensures that information gained through AHAB monitoring is accurately and rapidly relayed to protect human health.

Theme: Sustaining Marine Ecosystem and Human Health
Foci: Ensure safe and sustainable seafood for healthy populations.
Develop methods, identify data, and generate tools to describe communities and their connection to ocean environments to improve early warnings and predict impacts of hazardous events.
Official Citation:

Trainer, V.L., Sullivan, K., Eberhart, B.T.L., Paternoster, J., Shuler, A., Hignutt Jr., E., Kiser, J., Eckert, G., Morton, S.L. The impacts of paralytic shellfish poisoning on the Alaska shellfish industry and the implementation of an early warning system. J. Shellfish Research.