DMR: Red tide may be abating

Posted July 30, 2009, at 10:36 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The massive blooms of red tide algae that have shut down much of Maine’s shellfish industry for weeks may be abating, according to the Department of Marine Resources.

Darcie Couture, head of DMR’s biotoxin monitoring program, said in an update that levels of red tide algae appear to be declining in most areas. Toxicity levels, however, remained high enough to keep many areas closed. And the recent heavy rains again have compounded the problem by causing polluted runoff to contaminate shellfish beds in many coastal areas.

Couture wrote that she is cautiously optimistic that Maine’s red tide season has turned the corner. This year has been one of the worst on record and has taken a heavy toll on the state’s shellfish industry at the height of the tourist season.

Red tide algae occur naturally in the waters off the coast of New England and elsewhere along the East Coast. But during large blooms, shellfish can accumulate potentially toxic levels of red tide while filter-feeding. The resulting sickness, known as paralytic shellfish poisoning, can cause serious illness or death in humans who consume shellfish with toxic levels of red tide.

DMR’s monitoring program ensures that any shellfish sold by certified dealers in the state were harvested in areas unaffected by red tide.

For detailed maps of closures due to red tide or flooding, go to www.maine.gov/dmr/index.htm.

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