Domoic acid producing pseudo-nitzschia cells. Photo by Alan Sarich
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is a key participant the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) project. This is the first major attempt to try to understand harmful algal bloom (HAB) events and the corresponding toxins that affect razor clams along the Washington coast. The project is being funded by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Services - National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Together with WDFW, the project is made up of scientists from the following groups: National Marine Fisheries Service/Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Washington Department of Health (WDOH), Washington Department of Ecology, University of Washington's Olympic Coast Natural Resources Center and School of Oceanography, Pacific Shellfish Institute, Battelle Northwest Lab, and the Saigene Company.
One of the goals of the ORHAB group is to look for ways to predict toxic blooms and apply that information toward the management of the razor clam resource. Together with WDOH we currently collect and test razor clam samples on a regular basis. If elevated levels of marine toxins are found, seasons are closed or postponed. This provides very little warning in the event of a toxin event. The ORHAB project should provide the tools and techniques to better monitor for HAB events and give more advance notice to users of the razor clam resource.
Plankton counts, seawater measurements and clam sampling will be conducted by WDFW and QIN technicians throughout the year. These samples will be analyzed by our technicians and other ORHAB scientists. This data, along with data from remote buoys, sunlight and other environmental recording devises and satellite imagery will all go into a collective data base. This data base will begin creating a picture of what causes harmful plankton blooms and how predictive toxin events will be.
WDFW Technician Alan Sarich
collecting a plankton sample.