November 10, 2011
ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After the toxic algal bloom called "red tide" closed nearly all Maine fisheries in 2009, researchers at the University of Maine are looking for better ways to detect it.
UMaine has received $574,028 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop new technology to monitor for red tide.
Not visible, the algal bloom can contiminate shellfish. If consumed, the fish can be deadly.
Researchers Amber Bratcher and Janice Duy are developing a testing kit that uses a dye to detect the bloom's genetic code.
"We're trying to be able to go out to specific areas, [to see] if there is a red tide presence," said Bratcher.
She said she hopes better methods of detection will eliminate the spread of the toxin, "so that we don't end up closing down the whole coastline and stopping a lot of the clamming."
The project is funded for three years.
As UMaine develops this technology, some are worried that funding for the Maine Department of Marine Resource's Red Tide Detection program will run out.
Darcy Couture, spokesperson for the DMR Shellfish Monitoring Program, said the new research is vital, but is also worried about immediate needs for detection.
The DMR received federal funding during the 2009 disaster season, but that funding is projected to run out by August, when the clamming season is underway.
Some clammers are also worried about where the money will come from.
"There's a definite cause for concern," said shellfish harvester Joe Porada.
"If the DMR water quality people and public health aren't funded properly, it could really cut back their ability to monitor red tide and other bio toxins."
Porada said he is hopeful that UMaine research will produce new, and more efficient ways to detect ride tide.