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What's Killing the Abalone?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 2, 2011

The Department of Fish and Game says a particularly large amount of small, plant-like organisms called phytoplankton bloomed in the ocean waters on the  Sonoma Coast last week.  Biologist Carrie Wilson says it wasn't long before divers started reporting unusual behavior. 

WILSON: "They were finding abalone that were laying upside down.  And, we know that isn't normal for them as they need to be able to clamp down tight to a rock.  That's so they protect themselves from predators."

A large bloom of phytoplankton is called a "red tide."  It sounds ominous, but Wilson says red tides don't typically affect the Abalone.  But, biologists think that a neurotoxin may have somehow been created as a result of the red tide and that the neurotoxin might be at fault.

Unfortunately, there is no way to test the abalone for the neurotoxin.  Tests of nearby shellfish have found no Domoic Acid or paralytic shellfish poisoning, which typically do appear when a phyloplankton bloom is responsible for poisoning the water.   

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