There are higher risks of toxic shellfish due to a hotter West Coast ocean.
Domoic acid is a hazardous product that is causing the shellfish to accumulate it in their shells. This trend has been seen in the West Coast ocean off the states of Oregon and Washington.
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An NOAA based research team found this disturbing trend. Domoic acid is a marine algae that can accumulate in shellfish, fish and other sea animals. If humans ingest enough of this acid, they may fall ill or even die.
Many firms and seafood authorities constantly monitor sea produce for this acid and see to it that the levels are not higher than safety standards.
The NOAA is currently developing certain tools to help seafood managers to determine and ensure the safety levels of this acid. That is because domoic acid is increasing in its concentration in certain areas off the West Coast.
The tools include novel methods of gauging toxic hazards and making predictions on a macrolevel basis. Warm water phases such as Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and El Nino cause such phenomenon in the first place.
By employing chemical, physical and biological data, a climate risk analysis model was created. This predicts the time and place for domoic acid among shellfish to exceed the safety limits.
This model will be given free of cost to fisheries and other seafood companies to use on their own. Fisheries along the West Coast are mega-million dollar industries. By monitoring domoic acid levels in shellfish the necessary closures could be made to ensure that safety standards are being maintained.
Last year, domoic acid levels rose thereby making a dent in the profits of the fisheries. This deficit amounted to $100 million. The study will also pinpoint whether the warming of the ocean will lead to more toxic shellfish in the future or not.
If mankind’s fears are correct, we could expect to see more domoic acid effects all across the ocean food web. Already domoic acid levels have lead to deaths in marine mammals such as sea lions, sea otters, dolphins and whales.
The tool developed by the NOAA is a very helpful heuristic indeed. It could predict the odds of domoic acid levels down to the last few milligrams. Toxicity levels in crabs and shellfish will be monitored more closely in the future thanks to this tool.
The findings of this NOAA-supported research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.