Toxic Algae Warning for Monterey Bay–Could Harm Humans

April 30, 2014

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. —A new health warning has been issued urging people to not eat certain parts of anchovy, sardines, or crab caught in the Monterey Bay.

Health officials said they are too toxic and can be very dangerous to humans.

The algae blooms are out in the Monterey Bay, containing dangerous levels of domoic acid. As that algae works its way up the food chain into fish, birds and other and mammals, it takes its toll.

It’s already killing sea birds and threatens to harm people who aren’t careful.

C. Coimbra photo

C. Coimbra photo

Lifeless on the beach, seabirds known as Brandt’s Cormorant, likely ate fish contaminated with a toxic algae, causing their nervous systems to fail.

“They typically will come in and strand themselves, and they have a hard time with moving and their head kind of flops around,” said seabird biologist Hannah Nevins.

More than a dozen have been found dead in recent weeks under the pier at Seacliff State Beach.

“We’ve seen sort of a uptick in the numbers that are dying on beaches,” said Nevins.

Nevins said it isn’t just birds being affected. The domoic acid found within algae and fish is taking a toll on California sea lions, as well.

“They get disoriented they head straight out toward Hawaii instead or their normal migratory route,” said Nevins.

It isn’t known what causes the toxic algae to bloom but it can impact humans. Earlier this month the state public health department issued a warning not to eat recreationally harvested shellfish — mussels clams of whole scallops from the Monterey Bay.

On Monday, officials issued an update advising consumers not to eat the internal organs of commercially or recreationally caught anchovy, sardines or crab taken from the bay.

“It can result in dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea , really bad things that humans don’t want to get,” said Nevins.

The warning says in severe cases the victim may experience a number of worrisome symptoms including trouble breathing, confusion, seizures, coma, or death.

Typically the toxic algae blooms only last a week or two but the latest one has lasted all month. Until they die down, health warning are going to remain in place.

The warning does not apply to commercially sold clams, mussels, scallops or oysters from state-certified shellfish harvesters or dealers.

In that case, the the shellfish is subject to frequent testing to monitor for toxins.


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Categories: Domoic Acid Poisoning, Toxic Algae Blooms

Tags: , , , , , ,

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