The dangerous algae toxins detected in Alaskan marine animals are bad news for the whole wildlife of the area. A new study has shown that thirteen dead sea animals are presenting two toxins, namely saxitoxin and domoic acid. The recent findings were published in the Harmful Algae journal.
The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has conducted research that led to the discovery of harmful toxins from algae in thirteen animals living in Alaska, including seals, sea lions, whales, walruses, sea otters and porpoises. The team of researchers analyzed the feces, urine and stomach content of the creatures in order to determine the cause of their deaths.
Research scientist at the NOAA and the leader of the study, Kathi Lefebvre, has stated that:
“What really surprised us was finding these toxins so widespread in Alaska, far north of where they have been previously documented in marine mammals.”
Lefebvre also added that they have yet to determine whether the amounts of toxins found in the creatures were high enough to affect them or cause their deaths. However, algae are more likely to produce toxins because of the rising temperatures and thus all wildlife will be affected one way or another.
Lefebvre was joined by WARRN-West experts (Wildlife Algal-toxin Research and Response Network for the West Coast), who analyzed samples taken from 905 stranded marine mammals in Alaska over the years from 2004 until 2013. Therefore, they found out that harmful algae exist across a larger area than it was believed, stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the south of Alaska. Before, scientists were mostly aware of the presence of these toxins in Central California, and those have been affecting sea lions since 1998.
The results of the study demonstrated that walruses presented the highest amounts of algae toxins. However, their total level is not high enough to be considered dangerous in terms of seafood safety regulations. People should still be cautious about what seafood they choose to eat.
Gay Sheffield, one of the co-authors of the study, has pointed out that both walruses and bearded seals might have eaten contaminated clams, as shown by the evidence in their stomachs. This is a worrying fact since clams are considered a delicacy in northern and western Alaska. Fortunately, algae toxins did not appear in the blubber or the muscles of the animals, and thus the Alaska Department of Health has not made any changes to the food safety guidelines.
The dangerous algae toxins detected in Alaskan marine animals prove once again that global warming leads to the loss of natural balance in different environments and thus to the death of wildlife.
Image Source: CBC