Various programs and researchers in Alaska monitor for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in different ways. Some programs are collecting phytoplankton samples to look for the harmful species, whereas other programs are only collecting shellfish to test for the toxins these harmful phytoplankton species produce. Some programs do a combination of these two monitoring methods. Monitoring phytoplankton can provide a heads up to managers that shellfish may be accumulating the toxins. Before human consumption, however, managers and public health organizations must also test the shellfish since different shellfish species accumulate the toxins from phytoplankton at different rates.
Alaska is a large state with a large amount of coastline and concentrated areas of people. The State of Alaska monitors and regulates the commercial shellfish industry, yet does not monitor or regulate shellfish for subsistence or recreational harvest. Due to these challenges, regional monitoring programs in Southeast, Southcentral, and in the Aleutians have begun to fill the monitoring void. Each regional organization is working to reduce the risks of HABs through phytoplankton monitoring, shellfish testing, or both, but due to the remoteness of communities and funding limitations full monitoring coverage can be inconsistent.
Types of monitoring