Tuesday February 13, 2024


Paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, is a growing concern for Alaska’s entire marine food web, according to a scientist who presented testing data at Alaska Forum on the Environment on Monday.

Bruce Wright is senior scientist at the Knik Tribe and leads PSP monitoring efforts across the state. He said while PSP has been a concern for subsistence shellfish harvesters for centuries, he and other scientists have begun noticing deadly marine toxins targeting animals at every level of the food chain, from plankton to whales.

“We’re finding PSP in just about everything we test, all the animals we test, at different levels, different times of the year, different locations,” Wright said.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning can occur when a type of algae called Alexandrium blooms in the ocean, releasing lethal neurotoxins that end up lodged in many species of clams, mussels, scallops and other shellfish. In high concentrations, a single clam could kill a person.

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