Algal Neurotoxin Killing Ocean Creatures

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    John Koster - For the North County Times

    The good news is that scientists are improving their understanding of a horrific die-off of marine mammals along the California coast. The bad news is that there's been a horrific die-off of marine mammals along the California Coast.

    Experts believe that the culprit is a large bloom of algae that is producing an aquatic neurotoxin. Now, the hunt is on to figure out exactly where that bloom is located. An earlier mass of algae dissipated a month ago, so there must be another one lurking somewhere in the water.

    The toxin in question is domoic acid, according to the CC Times. It's consumed by fish, which in turn are eaten by larger birds and mammals.

    Dolphins, sea lions, and sardines are among the species that have turned up dead with domoic acid in their systems. Humans are at risk as well, and wildlife experts have placed a quarantine on harvesting live mussels.

    Nobody's sure why the domoic acid levels are so high right now. Although the algae tends to peak in the spring, the die-off is far more widespread than in previous years.

    A recent study suggested that chemically polluted runoff is a major cause of environmental change in the San Francisco bay. Fertilizers and pesticides could potentially alter the ecosystem, though it's still unknown how that would affect algae.