Research detects Harmful Algae Toxins in 13 Alaskan Marine Mammal Species

In an alarming new research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that harmful algae toxins have been detected in Alaska marine mammals. More than a dozen mammalian species, including whales and seals, are having algal toxic poisoning.

For the research, featured in journal Harmful Algae, the researchers examined over marine mammals that were stranded or harvested in Alaska in about a decade, from 2004 to 2013. The NOAA partnered with some other agencies and look mainly for two algal toxins: domoic acid and saxitoxin acid.

The harmful acids have been found in 13 examined species. It was surprising to find these toxins in areas like Alaska, said Kathi Lefebvre, a research scientist at the NOAA Fisheries at lead author of the research. “However, we do not know whether the toxin concentrations found in marine mammals in Alaska were high enough to cause health impacts to those animals. It’s difficult to confirm the cause of death of stranded animals”, Lefebvre continued.

The research has provided evidence that researchers should get ready to find more marine mammals with the harmful algal toxins in future, as per Lefebvre.

It has been more than two and half decades since domoic and saxitoxin acids are poisoning Alaskan waters. But, no case of mammal with domoic acid has been reported in the area so far. Saxitoxin toxicosis also has only a few cases in Alaska.

Experts have linked the new report with climate change. Now, the researchers have planned to study what marine mammals were accumulating the toxins from harmful algal blooms. Although finding this will be not an easy task for the researcher, it could present a clear picture on these toxins in marine mammals.

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