WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) has joined with several members of Congress from coastal states to introduce H.R. 2484, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2011.
The bill would provide a research framework and action plan for addressing harmful algal blooms such as red tide.
The bill is supported by Maine’s shellfish industry and coastal communities as well as the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR).
“Red tides can have a devastating economic impact on communities up and down Maine’s coast,” Michaud said. “The shellfish industry in Maine experienced a severe economic crisis in 2009 as a result of the closure of nearly all of our shellfish beds.”
Approximately 3,000 harvesters and dealers depend on access to healthy shellfish beds to make a living and support their families. DMR estimates that the total annual economic value for the shellfish industry in Maine is $50 million.
Red tide outbreaks have affected Maine’s shellfish industry five out of the past seven years. This year, except for areas of Cobscook Bay, the impact of the toxic algal blooms that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) has been relatively mild.
Last Thursday, DMR announced that water samples in western Maine had shown “a significant decrease in toxicity almost everywhere.” The department repealed most PSP closures everywhere in western Maine.
Eastern Maine is still recovering from a large wave of toxin that swept into Cobscook Bay unexpectedly a few weeks ago, prompting clam closures on very short notice. According to DMR that wave is now stable, and beginning to drop in some areas, although there were still Canadian reports of very high toxic cell counts in Passamaquoddy Bay that could portend more problems for Cobscook Bay.
Last week, DMR closed a small area around the off-shore islands in Knox and Hancock counties (Matinicus to Long Island, Frenchboro) to mussel harvesting.
For current information on shellfish closures, contact the Marine Patrol at (207) 667-3373, or call the state shellfish hotline at (800) 232-4733 or (207) 624-7727.