Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)
APIA has been working on paralytic shellfish poisoning projects since 2006 when the North Pacific Research Board funded a climate change PSP project (North Pacific Research Board funded PSP project). The project was developed to address the increased risks of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) due to the toxin range expansion as a result of the warming of sea water in the Arctic and the shift of species distribution, including harmful algal blooms that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. The absence of PSP testing of subsistence harvests combined with local and traditional knowledge on safe harvesting practices perceived as being insufficient at a time of rapid environmental change created urgency for this research in the Aleut communities in Alaska and Russia (Commander Islands.)
Paralytic shellfish poisoning orignating from toxic algae blooms of the dinoflagellate lexandrium cantenella has been a threat to public health of shellfish consumers in Alaska for centuries. The potential for PSP occurrence, as a result of climate change is a growing health concern to the coastal Alaska Natives, particularly Aleut communities where the problem is known to occur. One Aleut elder said of climate change, "It's like forced ubiquitous catastrophic kaleidoscopic environmental destruction, and everyone just calls it warming!" As subsistence users, Aleut people rely on their local knowledge to determine whether it is safe to consume shellfish. Local knowledge presumes that PSP occurrence is a summer event and can be identified by a red color in the water; termed a "red tide." Local and traditional knowledge may assist in reducing the health risk, but in Alaska PSP illness occurs off season and toxic blooms may be colorless. Climate change also increases variability of weather and extreme events, especially in the transition months in spring and fall making it difficult to correctly identify any time frame for gathering shellfish. The net result is that traditional knowledge that people rely on for subsistence harvest, in the context of climate change, is insufficient to protect public health. The Alaska Department of Epidemiology documents that Alaska Natives are 11.6 times more likely to encounter PSP than the general population, In the absence of any state sponsored PSP monitoring program to protect subsistence harvesters, supplementing traditional knowledge with conventional scientific research through a complementary approach is necessary to further reduce the PSP risk and increase communities' adaptive capacities to climate changes. The approach used in this project was to educate residents about the causes of PSP and train them to monitor shellfish toxicity in addition to traditional observations. The combined effort should help them to identify the potential threat and reduce the threat of PSP poisoning.
This project developed methods for communities to monitor occurrence and distribution of toxins in connection with climate change observations that increased communities' capacities in devising a mechanism to better respond to the threat and minimize the risk of poisoning. The results improved communities' abilities to adapt to the climate change impacts.
The project findings made an important contribution to our knowledge on distribution of paralytic shellfish toxins and on reliability of local and traditional knowledge in the Aleut region. It was found that low levels of paralytic shellfish poison toxins are spread throughout the region in Alaska but not on Bering Island in Russia. The toxin was detected in the season (April) when it would not be normally expected. This indicated that climate change is a likely driver of the increase of occurrences of PSP in the Bering Sea region. These profound environmental changes have a great impact on subsistence harvesting, including gathering of shellfish. Local and traditional knowledge, especially in its current fragmented form, cannot equip local residents with sufficient knowledge on safe harvesting of shellfish. This project, for the first time, provided baseline information for communities to advocate for comprehensive monitoring for paralytic shellfish toxins. The final report for that project can be found at North Pacific Research Board (funded PSP project_ final report).
In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded the second APIA PSP project: The Response to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in Aleut Communities. This project is a multi-agency collaboration designed to develop methods for communities to monitor occurrence and distribution of PSP toxins that will increase communities' capacities in devising a mechanism to better respond to the threat and minimize the risks of poisoning. The samples are all analyzed by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation using approved analytical methods. The linked tables and figures include data from a previously funded North Pacific Research Board and EPA IGAP (King Cove) projects and data collected from the most recent EPA funded project. The data collection will continue through the summer of 2011. More information is available in the following Public Service Announcement. To see PSP GRAPHS click Adak. Akutan. Atka. King Cove. Nelson Lagoon. Sand Point. Unalaska. Now including Upper Lynn Canal. Note that all PSP Graphs show mussels samples with the exception of King Cove and Sand Point; their graphs pertain to Butter Clams only.
UPDATE: May 11, 2011 - Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) results from Adak (mussels collected 4/20/11), Akutan (mussels collected 3/18/11) and Sand Point (butter clams collected 4/20/2011). The Sand Point sample had elevated PSP toxin level of 87 micrograms and is above the FDA limit of 80 micrograms. Note that the Sand Point data is spread over 5 years with few spring and summer data. The Sand Point data indicates that we may see high PSP levels this summer.
PSP Related Information:
NPRB HAB Project 0821, pg 13
State of Alaska DEC. (9-10-2010, PSP Seafood/Shellfish Results for Unalaska)
Pub Med. gov. (Comparative determination of paralytic shellfish toxins....)
The Dutch Harbor Fisherman (High levels of psp found in Sand Point....)
North Pacific Research Board (Harmful Algal Blooms)
North Pacific Research Board (Other Prominent Issues, Ocean Challenges)
Yosemite EPA (Region 10 Tribal Newsletter - Alaska Edition, page 3)
Toxicon (Comparative determination of paralytic shellfish toxins....)
Alaska's Marine Resources (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning: The Alaska Problem)
ADPH Prevention Promotion Protection (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Fact Sheet)
SEARHC News releases 6-23-10 (Paralytic shellfish poisoning warning issued for Southeast Alaska)
EPA PSP Final Report 2009-2011 (Testing and monitoring for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in Aleut Communities.)
BIO: Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist
APIA's HAB contact: Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist, (907)222-4260, email@example.com,
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
September 10, 2010
Contact: Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, (907)222-4260
APIA WARNS: Akutan, Sand Point, King Cove and Unalaska residents about dangers of paralytic shellfish poison
Harvesters should avoid eating untested shellfish
The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) advises sport and subsistence harvesters to be aware of the dangers of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP).
PSP is a potentially lethal toxin and can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis. The toxin
comes from algae, a food source for clams, mussels, scallops, and crabs found across Alaska. Sand Point was tested in 2006 for PSP and the levels were very high; the July 2010 PSP levels for Sand Point are even higher, King Cove butter clams have been above approved levels for months, Unalaska PSP level have also exceeded safe levels, and Akutan mussels are again high for the second month in a row. APIA issues this warning because clams may also be high in PSP throughout the region.
“DON’T EAT CLAMS, MUSSELS, SCALLOPS, and DUNGENESS CRAB VISCERA (GUTS) FROM ALASKA BEACHES UNLESS THEY HAVE BEEN TESTED,” says Bruce Wright, APIA Senior Scientist. ‘ANYONE WHO EATS PSP CONTAMINATED SHELLFISH IS AT RISK FOR ILLNESS OR DEATH.” PSP occurs widely in Alaska, and there are no certified safe beaches in the State of Alaska. There are no certified beaches in Kodiak, the Aleutian Islands, or populated areas of Southeast Alaska. Akutan, Sandpoint, King Cove, and Unalaska do not have certified beaches.
This warning does not apply to commercially grown and harvested shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants. They are tested regularly before going to the market. All harvesters are cautioned that small butter clams, which are more likely to contain PSP, can be miss-identified as littleneck clams. Butter clams have prominent concentric growth rings while littlenecks have rings which are concentric and intersect at right angles. Example of each online:http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/shellfish.htm.
APIA’s HAB contact: Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist, (907)222-4260, firstname.lastname@example.org