Monitoring Group: Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Geographic focus: Southcentral Alaska

Description: The main goal of the Harmful Algal Bloom monitoring program at KBNERR is to look for specific groups of phytoplankton that are known to carry toxins that can result in shellfish poisoning. Once these cells are seen, other tests can be performed that can ultimately advise the safety of shellfish consumption in the area. Monitoring phytoplankton also provides us with valuable baseline information on the bloom cycles in South Central Alaska. We also monitor blue mussels for toxicity levels throughout the season in Kachemak Bay. Our program is fueled by community monitors who are taking phytoplankton tows and sending the samples in to our office up to once a week from April to November.

Over the summer, approximately 300 phytoplankton samples are collected from over 30 sites around South Central Alaska by community members, aquaculture associations, tribal organizations, watermen, mariculture, and KBNERR staff. The samples are examined under microscopes recording all species seen and noting potentially toxic species. Blue mussels are sent to SEATOR for toxin testing during the harvesting season every two weeks from three sites in Kachemak Bay, to give an indication if shellfish are picking up toxins. When potentially harmful algae cells or toxic shellfish are found, we report our findings to state agencies, mariculture farmers and many other stakeholders. Weekly updates are sent out via e-mail throughout the season and are also available on our website.

Primary contact person:

Rosie Robinson,  907-235-4797


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