Fisheries and Oceans Canada are closely monitoring a bloom of toxic algae that now stretches across the Pacific Coast from California to B.C.The bloom is made up of a microscopic algae that produce domoic acid, which is potentially fatal to humans. While the acid levels are low in the part of the bloom closest to B.C., at least one fisheries area off the coast of Vancouver Island has been closed.
The bloom, which first appeared in May, is “one of the most toxic and spatially largest events we’ve had in at least a decade,” according to Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences, who spoke to the CBC.
Currently, researchers are concerned that marine life could have elevated levels of domoic acid in their systems.The toxins produced by the algae can be accumulated by fish and shellfish without causing problems. However, in humans it can cause amnesi shellfish poisoning (ASP) and can cross into the brain, disrupting nerve signal transmission.
A team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration set out from Oregon in a research vessel to study the bloom. They, along with other researchers, will try to figure out if the size of the bloom is tied to this year’s warmer-than-average water conditions along the Pacific Coast.