Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8657
Title: An unprecedented coastwide toxic algal bloom linked to anomalous ocean conditions
Author: Ryan M. McCabe, B. M. Hickey, R. Kudela, Kathi A. Lefebvre, N. G. Adams, Brian D. Bill, Frances M.D. Gulland, Richard E. Thomson, W. P. Cochlan, Vera L. Trainer
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Geophysical Research Letters
Volume: 43
Issue: 19
Pages: 10,366-10,376
Keywords: domoic acid,West Coast,Pacific Ocean,temperature,Pseudo-nitzschia,fisheries

A coastwide bloom of the toxigenic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia in spring 2015 resulted in the largest recorded outbreak of the neurotoxin, domoic acid, along the North American west coast.  Elevated toxins were measured in numerous stranded marine mammals, and resulted in geographically extensive and prolonged closures of razor clam, rock crab, and Dungeness crab fisheries.  We demonstrate that this outbreak was initiated by anomalously warm ocean conditions.  Pseudo-nitzschia australis thrived north of its typical range in the warm, nutrient-poor water spanning the northeast Pacific in early 2015.  The seasonal transition to upwelling provided the nutrients necessary for a large-scale bloom, and a series of spring storms delivered the bloom to the coast.  Laboratory and field experiments confirming maximum growth rates with elevated temperatures and enhanced toxin production with nutrient enrichment, together with a retrospective analysis of toxic events, demonstrate the potential for similarly devastating ecological and economic disruptions in the future.

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Theme: Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Foci: Provide scientific support to ensure safe seafood for healthy populations and characterize how human activities and climate affect risks from pathogens, chemical contaminants and biotoxins