Wells speaks with Press Herald about toxic algae blooms

Mark Wells, a marine biology professor at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for the article, “Maine plans swifter protocols for shellfish monitoring.” A toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia, a common phytoplankton, closed hundreds of miles of Maine coastline to shellfish harvesting this fall and caused a recall of 58,500 pounds of blue mussels in September — only the second shellfish recall in Maine’s modern history, according to the article. To prevent another recall, the state is drastically reassessing its shellfish monitoring practices, the article states. There are about 13 species of Pseudo-nitzschia in the Gulf of Maine, according to Wells, who has studied blooms of the algae on the West Coast. “They can bloom at one time with no toxin whatsoever and bloom at another time and be extremely toxic,” he said. The speed with which it becomes toxic is also alarming, Wells said. The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest-warming bodies of water on the Earth, and observers have warned about the ecological changes driven by a warming planet, the Press Herald reported. Changes in Maine waters may be driving new blooms, Wells said. “The concern is, we are seeing the start of a trend. It might not happen every year, but it may happen more frequently than in the past,” he added.