The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are working alongside Alaska CASC supported researchers to better predict when and where harmful algal blooms that affect locally consumed shellfish will occur in Southeast Alaska.
Connecting Alaska’s Algal Blooms to Shellfish Health
Many rural communities in Southeast Alaska rely on shellfish as a source of subsistence and recreation. However, harmful algal blooms that occur in this region can lead to an accumulation of paralytic shellfish toxins in shellfish, like clams, at a level that are dangerous for human consumption. With rising sea temperatures from a warming climate prolonging the timing of when these algal blooms occur, Alaska CASC supported researchers are working with collaborators from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) to identify and model trends in algal blooms.
Temperature, wind speed and salinity data, combined with Traditional Ecological Knowledge from Tlingit elders who use the timing of spawning herring as an indicator for the return of algal blooms, are being used to identify when shellfish may be most toxic and harmful to eat. With records on the timing of herring spawns dating back to the 1980s, resource managers could use this data as a proxy for the timing of historical algal blooms to better predict when and where shellfish resources may be affected.