Toxic algal bloom detected in Monterey Bay

Toxic algae are blooming offshore Monterey Bay right now, according to scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

MBARI sensors detected high concentrations of domoic acid and Pseudo-nitzschia cells that can contaminate seafood and poison marine wildlife. In a note to colleagues at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, MBARI director Chris Scholin characterizes it as a “very large event,” warning them not to eat any Monterey Bay shellfish or forage fish (such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel).

The institute has reported the toxic algal bloom to the California Department of Public Health, the Marine Mammal Center, and NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

In a message to posted to the Hopkins Facebook page yesterday afternoon, Scholin wrote:

“We have been following a very big bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia over the past couple of weeks here in the bay, and the amount of associated domoic acid is really extraordinary…

“Yesterday I noticed anchovies washing up on the beach in front of MBARI and [south] as far as I could see. There’s also lines of fish scales (anchovy?) marking the high tide line. We picked up some of the dead fish—guts are full of Psuedo-nitzschia frustules and the fish are hot with [domoic acid]. One of the staff went snorkeling off the beach here, and saw the seafloor littered with anchovies. There’s lots of birds feasting on the fish—we are seeing some dead birds amongst the fish, so I would guess some are getting hammered with [domoic acid].

“The bloom appears to be most toxic in the southern side of the bay for reasons we don’t understand. Heads up to the [Monterey Bay Aquarium] for your seawater intake, and keep an eye out for seizuring sea lions, sick birds, maybe sick otters. You may also see fish washing up…

“Don’t eat shellfish or forage fish from [Monterey Bay]—very nasty right now!!!”

MBARI will send a robot known as an autonomous underwater vehicle to map the affected area, in the south side of Monterey Bay, and look at the species composition of the algal bloom, Scholin added.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has also reported on the toxic bloom.

 

Photo: A diver with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute sets up an environmental sample processor—what MBARI spokesman Kim Fulton-Bennett calls a “DNA lab in a can.”

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