Massachusetts closing shellfishing areas due to toxic bloom

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (AP/WPRI) — Massachusetts regulators say several fishing areas in the southern coast and Buzzards Bay areas are no longer open to shellfishing because of a potentially toxic bloom of phytoplankton.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries says it has determined that the areas are unsafe for digging, harvesting or collecting shellfish. The closure took effect at sunrise on Saturday.

Authorities say the phytoplankton bloom can cause amnesiac shellfish poisoning in humans. Symptoms of ASP can include short- and long-term memory loss, along with other serious health effects.

Algae blooms have also prompted closures of shellfishing beds elsewhere in New England, including most of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and much of the coast of Maine.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Tweeted that samples collected Monday morning were being tested for toxins, until then shellfish beds remained closed as a precaution.

The most recent analyzed results are from October 9. According to the DEM, those samples still contained high levels of phytoplankton in the Bay.

The Massachusetts closure applies to fishing areas in Bourne, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Falmouth, Marion, Mattapoisett, Westport, New Bedford, Gosnold and Lackeys Bay in Gosnold.

Phytoplankton are mostly microscopic organisms that live in the water.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, it is possible that algae blooms may affect other waterbodies in Rhode Island.

Tests were done on October 9 in coastal salt ponds by the DEM as well. These samples showed very low levels of the toxin or none at all.

The agency said the public should avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water’s surface.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact RIDEM’s Office of Water Resources at 222-4700.

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