Mysterious toxic algae that shut down RI shellfishing last fall is back – March 3, 2017

[Source: Providence Journal]

For the first time ever last fall, toxin-producing Pseudo-nitzschia algae bloomed in Rhode Island waters and other parts of New England. The reappearance of the neurotoxin that can cause memory loss and brain damage is worrying scientists.

By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer

The first water sample containing an unusually high number of an algae that can produce a potent neurotoxin was taken off Newport Harbor last fall.

Within nine days the algae bloom had spread across Rhode Island waters, forcing the state to shut down many of its precious shellfishing beds out of fear that the toxin, once emitted, could be passed up the food chain from oysters and clams to humans. It has happened before in other places.
With as little warning as when it appeared, the algae colony collapsed, leaving no one sickened but raising questions in its wake.

Four months later, the cause is still a mystery that is stumping scientists and vexing state regulators who worry that it may be more than an anomaly.
Shellfishing has always occupied an outsize place in Rhode Island’s cultural fabric, but its importance goes beyond the quahog’s role as a symbol of the Ocean State….

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