Shellfish lovers in Southeast Alaska have a lot to be thankful for this year, as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska hosted a regional training on how to detect paralytic shellfish poisoning and other marine biotoxins Nov. 20-21 in Sitka.
This workshop brought to town several technicians from seven different regional tribes for the first training since the Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership to study harmful algal blooms (HABs) was announced in October. SEATT partners include Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Klawock Cooperative Association, Craig Tribal Association, Yakutat Tlingít Tribe, Petersburg Indian Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, and the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). In addition to the grant to create the partnership, Sitka Tribe of Alaska also received a second grant to create a regional lab in Sitka to help monitor HABs in Southeast Alaska.
Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudonitzchia and Dinophysis.
Being able to put trained monitors in several Southeast Alaska communities, the hope is the health risk can be reduced. Each technician will make weekly reports to the lab, which will help harvesters have better information as to the safety of their shellfish. To learn more about the training, check out this link from the Sitka Conservation Society website and this link from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Science website.