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Freshwater Biotoxins

The Salish Sea is home to numerous shellfish species which are harvested for commercial, recreational, subsistence, and cultural uses. The Coast Salish Peoples and Lummi Nation have been shellfish harvesting for millennia, and access to safe, sustainable shellfish is a food security priority for their communities – but what is the best way to ensure this? Bellingham and Lummi Bay, WA, are often plagued by shellfishery closures related to both water quality and presence of marine and freshwater toxins, and robust monitoring f toxins is key to ensure safe shellfish harvests.

Marine shellfish beds are routinely exposed to freshwater toxins like microcystin, and yet shellfish are not monitored for these toxins in Washington State. At the Salish Sea Research Center, we maintain four weekly marine monitoring sites (map below) and we test levels of freshwater biotoxins. With this monitoring, we aim to produce data which can be used by our sovereign tribal partners to guide policy for marine species that are exposed to freshwater biotoxins.

Parameters measured: temperature, inorganic nutrients, chlorophyll-a, particulate cyanotoxins, dissolved cyanotoxins, and SPATT toxin sampling.

Freshwater Sites

Freshwater Biotoxin Sample Sites

Wiser Lake

Smuggler's Slough

Nooksack River

Whatcom Creek

Lake Padden

Our current research program has documented marine biotoxins in shellfish in Salish Sea waters, utilizing our three marine monitoring stations, pictured at top, left,

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