DV-11-04 Developing a nearshore predictive tool for shellfish toxicity

Laurie Connell
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469

Maine’s extensive and productive tidal flats are often closed to shellfish harvesting when harmful organisms known as Alexandrium or red tide are present. These algae contain a toxin that causes paralytic poisoning in people who eat contaminated shellfish. The Maine Department of Marine Resources is responsible for monitoring harmful algal blooms and opening and closing clam flats. With limited staff available to sample Maine’s extensive coastline, closures can be unpredictable, leaving fishermen unable to prepare for and adjust to closures. 

Dr. Laurie Connell tracked Alexandrium abundance and shellfish toxicity in Cobscook Bay to inform development of a tool that might better predict where closures may occur. Preliminary results indicated a correlation between cell counts and toxicity in shellfish. Connell leveraged these results for a $574,028 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to validate the tool. The new funds will support more advanced analysis to assess the strength of the relationship and its potential for determining how much coastline should be closed during a red tide event, and how quickly shellfish beds may be re-opened after red tide closures.

Sea Grant funds: $3,840