Harmful Algal Blooms: A Sign of Things to Come?

January 27, 2016

An interview with NOAA Fisheries scientist Vera Trainer.

Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine algae that produces a toxin called demoic acid.

Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine algae that produces a toxin called demoic acid. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Last year, a vast mass of poisonous algae bloomed off the West Coast, from California to Alaska. One of the largest of its kind ever recorded in the region, the bloom shut down shellfish fisheries all along the coast, impacted the livelihoods of fishermen, and threatened the health of many marine mammals.

Harmful algal blooms happen when a species of algae that produces toxins grows out of control. Although last year’s bloom has begun to subside, and Dungeness crab and other valuable fisheries have begun to re-open, climate change is still warming the ocean. Warmer water means faster-growing algae, and if climate projections are correct, it’s likely that we’ll see more of these blooms in the future.

Vera Trainer is an oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle. In this podcast, Trainer describes some of the measures that NOAA Fisheries and other agencies are taking to help coastal communities adapt to a changing future.

Last updated by Office of Communications on July 23, 2018