Are Red Tides on the Rise?

In September of this year the entire Oregon coast was closed to all mussel and clam harvesting by the state Department of Agriculture. This came on the heels of a long summer closure and lays a heavy blow to the Oregon shellfish industry.

In October, Maine petitioned Congress for assistance for their clamming industry that has suffered significantly from coastal closures over the summer. Other 2009 US closures include Virginia, Maryland and Washington.

What's responsible for these closures? A risk of toxin contamination from red tides.

Red Tides, also known as Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB's), are blooms created by an overgrowth of a microscopic marine algae that can, given the right conditions, produce lethal nerve toxins. When fish absorb these toxins they are paralyzed and die. Fish-eating birds and humans are also at risk. Shellfish contaminated with these toxins will cause severe illness and even death if consumed.

Red Tides are natural occurrences that have been around as long as the algae who create them. However, scientists are concerned that toxic red tides are on the rise and occurring in waters where they never have before. Many scientists believe that this increase in HAB's can be linked to nutrient pollution (nutrient rich bi products of agriculture and waste treatment plants that make it to our waterways through runoff water).

The EPA ranks nutrient pollution, namely phosphorus and nitrogen
pollution, as one of the major causes of water degradation over the past ten
years. So why aren't they doing anything about it?

The Sierra Club has organized a petition to the EPA, asking them to preserve and protect our waters from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The request is simple:

• Establish water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus and;

• Establish limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be dumped into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico

If nutrient pollution worries you, do something about it. Take action today! Tell the EPA to protect our waters from nitrogen and phosphorous pollution by following this link and signing the petition.


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