Press Herald cites Wells in report on toxic shellfish areas

Mark Wells, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for the article, “In new cautionary approach, Maine shellfish areas will be closed at first sign of toxins.” Public health officials said they will use extreme caution to manage toxic algae blooms this year to prevent another expensive and potentially dangerous shellfish recall, according to the article. Maine officials are expert managers of red tide, a toxic algae bloom that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning and recurs almost every year. But those blooms are predictable and easy to monitor compared to pseudo-nitzschia, which blooms without warning and can become very toxic at low cell concentrations, the article states. The direct cause of pseudo-nitzschia blooms since 2016 is a mystery, but UMaine researchers suspect a combination of abnormally warm ocean temperatures, changing currents and a drought that cut off nutrient flow into the Gulf of Maine may encourage toxic blooms, Press Herald reported. If this year has another hot, dry summer, that could mean another bloom on the horizon, according to Wells. “Are these going to start becoming more normal conditions? This provides one avenue to start thinking about it,” he said.