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NOAA New England Red Tide Information Center

FAQ 2008

Q: What is the impact of red tide in Federal waters?
A: a result of the risk of PSP, NOAA Fisheries Service has closed a large area of Federal waters to harvest of some shellfish (bivalves).  For more information, go to

Q: What fisheries are affected by the Federal closure?
A: In the northern area all species of bivalve molluscan shellfish (bivalves), including surf clams, ocean quahogs, blue mussels, and whole or roe-on scallops.  In the southern area,  whole or roe-on scallops
Exception: Scallops that are harvested onboard and shucked for the adductor muscle (meat) - (viscera of scallops is affected and closure prohibits landing of whole scallops). Scallops must be shucked at sea. The biotoxin concentrates in internal organs of shellfish not the scallop adductor muscle tissue.

Q: Is it safe to eat other shellfish in Federal waters?
A: Yes. In Federal waters, fish, lobster and crabs are unaffected by the toxin and remain safe for human consumption.

Q: Is it safe to eat shellfish in State waters?
A: State waters are managed by the states and Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire currently have closures for red tide. Refer to the states for details regarding shellfish consumption.

Q: What is the size of the Federal closure?
A: The area is approximately 15,000 square miles (100 x 180 miles) of Federal waters (3-200 miles offshore) off the coasts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It does not include any State waters that may be affected by State closure orders. Refer to map at

Q: How long will the Federal closure continue?
A: The closure will remain in effect until December 31, 2008 with the possibility of a reduction or an extension of the closure based upon FDA’s determination that the concentration of the toxin in shellfish is at a level considered safe for human consumption.

Q: How is NOAA studying this red tide event?
A: NOAA is mandated by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Amendments Act of 2004 -Public Law 108-456 to assist in responding to HAB events like this one. NOAA-funded research has led to the development of the models used to predict the 2008 bloom and weekly model updates provide managers with forecasts of the location and intensity of the bloom.  In addition cruises conducted as part of the GOMTOX project are making partial maps of the coastal area to validate the model results. 

Q: Is there a sampling protocol for Federal waters in the closed area?
A: NOAA and FDA are collaborating on a Pilot-PSP Dockside Monitoring Study in order to determine a protocol to allow shellfish harvesting in the currently closed area while protecting human health.  In addition, NOAA is funding a large regional study, GOMTOX to establish a comprehensive regional-scale understanding of Alexandrium bloom dynamics, transport, and associated shellfish toxicity.

NOAA Relevant Web Sites:

NOAA Fisheries Service Northeast Region

NOAA New England Red Tide Information Center

NOAA Ocean Service

Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB)

Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB)

Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA)


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