Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Why Can't We Eat Mussels In Southeast Alaska?


Because mussels carry an increased risk of containing PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning). The toxin that causes PSP tends to become more concentrated, and remain longer, in the body and organs in the mussel that it does in some other shellfish. However, all shellfish in Southeast Alaska are “at risk” for containing the PSP toxin. PSP strikes a few people in Alaska nearly every year after collecting and eating shellfish from beaches in different parts of the state. For instance, two Southeast Alaskan residents died last summer in less than a week of suspected PSP poisoning after consuming personally harvested shellfish. PSP occurs widely in Alaska, and comes from so-called “red tides” in the ocean water. According to the Alaska Depart of Environmental Health, “red tides occur when temperatures, nutrients, light and calm water conditions spur rapid reproduction of ocean plankton. This increase in the number of plankton may add a reddish cast to the water. In Alaska, red tides may be caused by the dinoflagellates Protogonyaulax cantenella which causes PSP; however many nontoxic algae can also discolor the water during a bloom stage. For this reason, there is no way an individual can determine whether shellfish from a beach are …

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