Climate Change Driving Toxic Algae Along Pacific Coast

by efortush on November 25, 2016 - 4:29pm

     Oceanic contamination throughout the world is one of the largest issues pertaining to water degradation, and is now a large threat to the Canadian Pacific Coast.  Specifically, introduction of algal blooms to coastal areas can be attributed to being a large portion of the threat to the environment, various species and human life. The article titled “Climate change could foster toxic algae along Pacific coast, says report” encompasses the growing risks related to the Canadian BC pacific coastline as well as its relationship towards the nearby harmful Alaska blooms. The case, in which harmful algal produced chemicals are becoming more prominently noticed in ocean waters, as well as blooms travelling north, has been related to climate change and the associated temperature increase. The presence of domoic acid and saxitoxin, harmful algal produced chemicals, have been studied and seen within various mammal species.

     A study performed by Kathi Lefebvre investigated the presence and effects of the chemicals within Alaskan mammals and the risk now heavily present for the Canadian BC regions. Lefebvre analyzed over 900 Alaskan mammal carcases consisting of thirteen various species from wales to sea lions, for the presence of the two lethal chemicals. It was determined that of the tested species, 10 contained saxitoxin, and low levels of domoic acid were found within all species. California is known for having a large presence of algal blooms in which regularly poison local sea lions causing death, although until recently these tendencies have not been seen north of California. Within the Alaskan study, tested specimens contained the harmful chemicals but it is unknown if the doses were high enough for health effects. Despite no immediate casualties, the risk has been introduced and is now a factor.

     Despite this extensive study that was performed it is still unknown if the toxin levels are stable or increasing, creating a greater demand for studies to monitor these levels and patterns. One factor that is well known is that conditions are changing to be more suitable for algal bloom expansion (Powers, 2015).

     In particular, this article is largely based on uncertainty along with the issues and findings addressed by Kathi Lefebvre in her Alaskan study. There is little knowledge known regarding how the toxins move through the food web or how algal blooms alter with climate change, which should introduce the need for adaptive management implementation. The resulting economic, environmental and ecological impacts of the toxic blooms incorporate a large portion of unknown tendencies, which with proper adaptive management should lead to more educated management decisions. Implementing active adaptive management by incorporating several policies regarding the decrease of algal bloom expansion will be revolved around learning and observing the original unknown cause. Additionally, observing the effect that the algal toxins will have on marine mammal species, ecosystem, and human health and applying it to long-term circumstances.

     Throughout the article it is clear that management decisions have not reached a beneficial point in mitigating algal bloom harm. The effects such as mammal casualties and closing of fish markets should lead to active adaptive management, increasing knowledge regarding the associated cause and effect. Last years record bloom off the U.S. Pacific Northwest closed fisheries for many lucrative species. For these are the reasons why implementing proper management will decrease uncertainty leading to less risk towards ecosystems and human health. It should be stressed that algal bloom patterns and establishment have minimal studies observing there trend associated with climate change and algal toxins must be taken more seriously as a harm to ecosystem health. Policies regarding known hazards such as decreasing nearby agriculture chemical use will prove beneficial.


1.         Climate change could foster toxic algae along Pacific coast, says report

Supporting Article:

2.         Toxic algae blooms: What you should know about the mysterious phenomen

(Powers, 2015)