NOAA award will aid Long Island communities and New York’s shellfish industry threatened by toxic algal blooms

November 7, 2011

NOAA has awarded $125,614 for the first year of an anticipated $591,082, three-year project to New York scientists researching new methods of monitoring and predicting Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) caused by the toxic algae Alexandrium and Dinophysis.

Eating shellfish tainted with toxins from these marine algae species can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) in humans.

The project will investigate advanced monitoring technologies and early warning methods to help New York respond to a growing toxic algae bloom problem that is a threat to public health and jobs that depend upon harvesting and marketing of seafood. These toxins have forced the closure of nearly 11,400 acres of prime shellfish beds along Long Island coastline since emerging as a major threat in 2006. NOAA also awarded funds to scientists with the University of Maine for a similar project this month.

Research will be carried out at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences with research partners at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and a citizen’s volunteer Phytoplankton Monitoring Network coordinated by NOAA. By partnering with DEC, the agency responsible for shellfish sanitation, the findings will re-enforce and improve existing, rigorous harmful algal bloom monitoring programs that ensure safe seafood and protect public health.

DEC’s Assistant Commissioner of Natural Resources Chris Amato said, “Partnering with Stony Brook and NOAA will enable my agency to apply the latest technologies in monitoring HAB cells, their toxins and associated environmental conditions in all of New York’s marine waters. Guided by this project, we’ll be able to monitor more effectively and efficiently, improving our capacity to protect public health and lowering the cost of doing so.”

This work will enable consumers of New York shellfish to remain confident in the quality of the local seafood they enjoy and enable New York to safeguard a commercial industry generating $19 million per year.

This project was funded through a national competition of the Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) program run by NOAA’s National Ocean Service/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

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