Red tide forces widespread closures in Maine

Posted July 10, 2009, at 10:41 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Officials have shut down virtually the entire Maine coast to clam digging because of a widespread outbreak of red tide.

Darcie Couture (KOO’-cher) of the Department of Marine Resources says the entire Maine coast is closed to clam and mussel harvesting except for two small areas of flats in eastern Maine.

She says it’s the worst case of the toxic algae bloom she’s ever seen, forcing hundreds of clam diggers to put down their rakes.

Red tide is caused by naturally occurring algae that produce a toxin that shellfish absorb as they feed. The toxin doesn’t affect the shellfish, but consuming mussels or clams affected by red tide can cause sickness and even death in humans.