, Salem, MA


May 20, 2013

'Laboratory in a can' monitors red tide off Maine


In bad years, red tide outbreaks have shut down hundreds of miles of clam flats for weeks at a time in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in losses for clam diggers and other shellfish harvesters.

The new processors are intended to complement, not replace, existing red-tide monitoring programs. State agencies now test for red tide in coastal shellfish areas, but there’s never been ongoing testing in waters miles offshore.

Tracking red tide outbreaks using only shoreline testing is like predicting the weather using only weather instruments in your backyard, not knowing about a storm system coming your way, Anderson said. Adding offshore testing for red tide toxins is like adding radar, weather balloons and other sophisticated equipment in forecasting the weather, he said.

“You can see something offshore and know what’s coming,” he said. “We take that for granted with the weather. Imagine that in monitoring these algal blooms.”

Offshore tests will help managers determine when they should be conducting coastline testing, said Darcie Couture, lead scientist at Resource Access International LLC, a Brunswick company that provides private laboratory testing for shellfish. If there aren’t any toxins being detected offshore, then there’s probably no need to be testing for them close to shore, she said.

The devices will also give managers a heads-up on when and where red tide might strike. In 2005, there was a large red tide bloom in the gulf that nobody was aware of and that stayed offshore because winds were blowing from the southwest. But when a nor’easter struck, the northeasterly winds blew the red tide to shore, resulting in widespread clam flat closures with little warning.

“The offshore waters are a blind spot unless you have something out there telling you what’s happening,” said Couture, who formerly headed Maine’s red-tide monitoring programming.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Local News
  • Ipswich selectmen act to stop clam raiders IPSWICH -- The Southwest is not the only border under siege. Ipswich is taking emergency action to deal with clammers coming across the Essex and Gloucester border on Sundays to harvest on the richest clamming beach in Ipswich. It's not as serious, o

    July 22, 2014

  • Scuba diver identified

    The district attorney's office has identified the man who died Tuesday in an apparent drowning while scuba diving approximately 2 miles off of Marblehead Harbor. He is Gregory Cole, 58, of Westfield.

    Foul play is not suspected.  The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.  The facts and circumstances leading up to his death remain under investigation.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Brimbal Avenue design to be presented Thursday

    BEVERLY -- Residents will get their first chance to weigh in on the new design proposal for the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange on Thursday. City and state officials, along with designer Jacobs Engineering, will host a community meeting Thursday

    July 22, 2014 6 Stories

  • Bail set at $250K for teacher slaying suspect

    July 23, 2014

  • Marblehead diver rescue 2 Body of diver recovered off Marblehead

    State Police divers found the body of a 59-year-old man in the waters off Marblehead at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story