WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Record levels of algae have plagued U.S. coastal areas this year, sickening swimmers and hampering shellfish harvests, oceanographers say.
Wayne Litaker, a research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Tuesday’s USA Today that toxic algae blooms have spread for hundreds of miles along some sections of coast, a phenomenon known as “red tides,” which cause harm to fish and can trigger paralysis in human swimmers.
Litaker told the newspaper the blooms, which scientists say have spread out over much larger areas in recent years, have caused an estimated $100 million per year in damages to the seafood and tourism industries.
State officials reportedly blame widespread algae with forcing the closure of Maine’s harvest of clams, oysters and mussels, and the killing of more than 4 million fish off the coast of Texas.
Donald Anderson, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, said some algae blooms are now stretching for up to 1,000 miles, adding that overfishing and global warming may be helping to spur their growth.
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