Giant Toxic Algae Bloom Poses Threat to Humans and Wildlife on West Coast

Humans and animals on the west coast should take care when near the water. One of the largest algae blooms of all time is producing dangerous toxins which now stretch from California to Alaska. The neurotoxin being released by the bloom is called domoic acid, and it can cause a series of problems for any mammal that comes into contact with it.

Here is how it spreads: algae from the bloom finds a home in shellfish and smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines. Those creatures can then transfer the toxin to sea lions, birds, dolphins and various other creatures. In California, the toxin is being held responsible for large number of sea lion deaths, strandings and malnourished cubs.

Shellfish harvests, crabbing and fisheries have nearly ground to a halt as oceanographers seek to understand how this bloom became so enormous.

NOAA Oceanographer Vera Trainer called the levels “scary” and told reporters in Seattle that, “We’re seeing effects on marine ecosystem we haven’t seen before.” She went on to say that unlike normal algae blooms, this one is not dissipating, but rather sticking around near the shore.

Some scientists have speculated that an unseasonably warm spring is to blame for the algae bloom. Others think that ‘The Blob,’ a section of the North Pacific that is about two degrees warmer than the surrounding water, could be responsible for the size of the bloom.

Not Just Your Average Red Tide

Red Tides, caused by algae blooms which often create the appearance of red water, are common on coasts around the globe. However, not all Red Tides are toxic. In the Pacific Northwest, Red Tides are a common yearly occurrence and during this time residents who live near the water are warned not to dig for clams or consume shellfish.

What makes this occurrence so spectacular compared to the usual seasonal Red Tide is the sheer concentration and the size. For those that live near the water and often head down to the shore with pets, be careful. There are warnings that for humans and pets that come into contact with the water it can cause rashes, sore throats, stomach issues and eye irritation.

If you have a dog like mine, who tends to investigate environments with his mouth, eating a shellfish or ingesting a sick or dead animal does have the potential to cause death. If your pets have been near the water recently and are exhibiting any symptoms, take them to the veterinarian immediately. Common symptoms in animals that have been exposed to this toxin include: bulging eyes, head weaving, seizures, excessive mucus from the mouth and disorientation.

In humans who have mistakenly ingested the toxin, symptoms include: weakness, confusion, vomiting, intestinal distress, seizures, profuse respiratory secretions and coma. It is also important to keep in mind that domoic acid is heat resistant and stays in shellfish even after freezing. Although there is no antidote for domoic toxicity, supportive care at a hospital will see most patients through the worst of it.

Although the concentration of the algae varies all up and down the coast, becoming higher in Oregon and Washington, but dropping to lower levels in Canada, scientists have still warned everyone in affected regions to take care with the food they consume, and to use extra caution when visiting the shore.

Photo Credit: Marufish/Wikimedia

73 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

I'll give you three guesses as to what/who caused this mess and the first two don't count! This was caused by humans again. Is there any doubt.

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

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Rhonda B.
.2 years ago

Shocking.....so sad for all animals that are in contact with this. Thanks for alerting us!

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Telica Randall-Fraser
Telica R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Natasha Salgado
Past Member 2 years ago

Terrible. I'm so concerned about the wildlife.

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Pamela A.
Pamela A2 years ago

Ewwwwww toxic gunk.
Maybe this slime will ruin some 1%ers prime real estate and they will become part of the solution instead of the problem
One can only hope

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Ben Oscarsito
Ben O2 years ago

I don't know what to do about it, that's for sure... : ~ (

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Ron A G.
Ron G2 years ago

I've read stories here from all coast lines, which says to me it's a planet problem. I only can add to the horror stories of sickness in the observations made reading stories like if people remain in their cocoon, their own little world, they are safe from these type problems. That is certainly not the case. Red Tide will not come get you inland of course, but the foods you buy that do can make it into your homes, and bellies. The problem must start to be solved with being aware, and making your vote count for the elected politicians who believe and listen to those who can affect change. It also must be us who changes and demands change. Believe in God if you do, but also believe in science. Knowledge was given for all of us to use not to hear and neglect.

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A2 years ago

this is terrible. this is stuff is toxic in many ways!! Hopefully one of these days the rest of the people will take their heads out of the sand!

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