Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4686
Title: Summary of birds killed by a harmful algal bloom along the south Washington and north Oregon coasts during October 2009
Author: Elizabeth M. Phillips, J. E. Zamon, H. M. Nevins, C. M. Gibble, R. S. Duerr, Lauren H. Kerr
Publication Year: 2010
Journal: Northwestern Naturalist
Volume: 92
Pages: 120-126
Keywords: Akashiwo sanguinea, demography, harmful algal bloom, Oregon, plumage fouling, seabird, Washington,

Seabirds are known to be vulnerable to biotoxins produced by harmful algal blooms (HABs). The ingestion of prey contaminated with biotoxins such as domoic acid can cause disorientation, seizures, morbidity, and mortality. During November 2007 in Monterey Bay, California, an unprecedented stranding of live and dead seabirds highlighted plumage fouling as an emerging mortality factor during harmful algal bloom (HAB) events. The fouling agent was a proteinaceous foam derived from the cellular breakdown of the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea. This foam coated seabird plumage in a manner similar to fouling by petroleum oil, causing waterlogging, hypothermia, morbidity, and mortality in the California birds. During late October 2009 along the southern Washington and northern Oregon State coasts, algal blooms caused another seabird plumage fouling event, where several bird species were coated in a foam surfactant. Water and feather samples confirmed that this dinoflagellate bloom was also A. sanguinea. Du and others describe the conditions that facilitated the A. sanguinea bloom off the Oregon coast and propose that the source of the bloom was southward transport of cells from a massive September bloom that first occurred off the Washington coast. Similar to the 2007 California event, the foam produced by the Washington- Oregon bloom reduced the waterproofing of birds’ plumage, causing hypothermia in individual birds and leading to the stranding of hundreds of debilitated live and dying seabirds on public beaches.

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Theme: Ecosystem Approach to Management for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Foci: Characterize linkages between climatic conditions and biotic responses.