Testing Detects Algal Toxins in Alaska Marine Mammals

2016-06-28T19:24:23+00:00 March 11, 2016|
This is a stranded humpback whale carcass in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Humpback whales were among the Alaska marine mammals that showed exposure to algal toxins, according to new research. (Credit: Kathy Burek-Huntington, Alaska Veterinary and Pathology Services)

(Click to enlarge) This is a stranded humpback whale carcass in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Humpback whales were among the Alaska marine mammals that showed exposure to algal toxins, according to new research. (Credit: Kathy Burek-Huntington, Alaska Veterinary and Pathology Services)

Toxins from harmful algae are present in Alaskan marine food webs in high enough concentrations to be detected in marine mammals such as whales, walruses, sea lions, seals, porpoises and sea otters, according to new research from NOAA and its federal, state, local and academic partners.

(From ScienceDaily) — The findings, reported online today in the journal Harmful Algae, document a major northward expansion of the areas along the Pacific Coast where marine mammals are known to be exposed to algal toxins. Since 1998, algal toxin poisoning has been a common occurrence in California sea lions in Central California. However, this report is the first documentation of algal toxins in northern ranging marine mammals from southeast Alaska to the Arctic Ocean.

“What really surprised us was finding these toxins so widespread in Alaska, far north of where they have been previously documented in marine mammals,” said Kathi Lefebvre, a NOAA Fisheries research scientist who led the study. “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. But we do know that warming trends are likely to expand blooms, making it more likely that marine mammals could be affected in the future.”

The Wildlife Algal-toxin Research and Response Network for the West Coast (WARRN-West) tested samples from more than 900 marine mammals that were harvested or found stranded in Alaska from 2004 to 2013. Testing found the algal toxins, domoic acid and saxitoxin, present in low levels in some animals from each of the 13 marine mammal species examined, and from all regions in Alaska.

Read the full article here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160211142229.htm