The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is reporting that NOAA-funded scientists working in the Gulf of Maine to study the toxic algae that causes red tide are predicting that New England will experience a “moderate” regional red tide bloom this spring and summer (2012).
The algae pose no direct threat to humans; however, the toxins they produce can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans who consume them.
Under a newly developed rating system, a moderate bloom could cause the closure of shellfish beds along an estimated 126 to 250 miles of coastline.
The 2012 outlook is based on the quantities of the algae Alexandrium fundyense in its dormant (cyst) state detected in Gulf of Maine sediments last fall. These data are combined with computer simulations that model a complex range of meteorological and oceanographic conditions—winds, sunlight, rainfall, tides, and currents—that impact the size of the bloom.