The map below shows the preliminary counts of Alexandrium cysts from a survey conducted in January and February 2013. Highest cyst concentrations were again found in Quartermaster Harbor in the south, and at levels similar to those observed in 2012. Liberty Bay and Bellingham Bay also had cyst concentrations; however, the levels observed in 2013 at Bellingham Bay are a factor of five fewer than those observed in 2012.
While final counts are yet to be conducted, we share this information now in the spring of 2013 as part of PS-AHAB's "just-in-time" information dissemination program to stakeholders to increase early warning capabilities for toxic bloom events. In fact, this year we began processing samples on board the research vessel which allowed us to release this preliminary map over 2 months ahead of schedule. PS-AHAB researchers would like to remind stakeholders that no relationship has yet been identified between locations with high cyst abundances and shellfish toxicity in Puget Sound, and the number of cysts required to initiate a bloom has not yet been determined. These questions, and others, form the basis of research being conducted by the PS-AHAB team. Please check this website regularly for updates and highlights of this Program.
The Washington State Department of Health Public Health Laboratory analyzed 3,201 PSP samples in 2012. PSP toxin levels were much higher in 2012 compared to 2011, with the highest recorded value being 10,304 micrograms detected in mussels near Kingston. The Federal Drug Administration standard for PSP toxins in shellfish tissues is 80 micrograms per 100 grams of meat. There were 23 commercial sub-tidal geoduck clam tracts, 5 commercial general growing areas, and 31 recreational harvest areas closed in 2012 due to unsafe levels of PSP, and alarmingly there were 9 reported PSP illnesses reported from people consuming blue mussels from areas that were closed to recreational shellfishing. This information was kindly provided by Jerry Borchert, and will assist the PS-AHAB Program to identify relationships between bloom events the previous summer, cyst deposition and the formation of overwintering "seed beds", and the potential for blooms the following summer.