On alert for red tide

LAMOINE — Last week, DMR announced that the biotoxin season was “well underway” in Maine’s coastal waters. Regional mussel harvesting closures went into effect on May 1 and testing disclosed toxicity in mussels at several locations at that time.

There is a very active bloom of small cell Pseudo-nitzschia, the microscopic phytoplankton that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), in the Blue Hill Bay and Frenchman Bay area. However, testing indicates no toxin is being formed at this time.

Somewhat unusually, this season toxicity has been observed in American oysters. Last Friday afternoon, DMR closed several areas to oyster harvesting including the waters around Bristol and South Bristol as well as the region from Phippsburg to Cape Elizabeth.

The closures affect both wild harvest and farmed oysters, but aquaculturists with leases from the state may file a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DMR that provides for site specific testing for biotoxins. If the test results are clear, the farmers might be able to continue to harvest their oysters.

The procedure applies only to holders of standard aquaculture leases. Limited Purpose Aquaculture permit holders are not allowed to submit MOUs for site-specific testing.

Recreational shellfish harvesters are reminded to keep track of potential closures because of either pollution or the presence of biotoxins.

The latest information on closures is available through DMR’s biotoxin and shellfish sanitation hotline — (800) 232-4733 or 624-7727 — or by calling the Maine Marine Patrol in Lamoine at 664-2392.

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