be some significant low tides around Kodiak Island for the next week or so, and
that includes the ever-popular Independence Day when beach picnics are sure to
be all the rage. A minus 2.5-foot tide, while not extremely low by Cook Inlet
or Bristol Bay standards, is reasonably rare on the east side of the island.
The extra-low lows will make for excellent tide-pool exploring, however health
officials are cautioning Kodiak residents not to gather local shellfish because
of high endemic levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP.
Hear the whole conversation with Brian Himelbloom here:
Himelbloom is associate professor of seafood microbiology at the Kodiak Seafood
and Marine Science Center. That's the former Fish Tech Center on Near Island.
-- (PSP 1 24 sec "The
shellfish - we're talking clams and ... paralytic shellfish poisoning.")
Island waters have an unusually large amount of the algae that produce the neurotoxins
naturally, though nobody is quite sure why. At least two deaths on the island
have been attributed to PSP over the years.
parts of the country, PSP is called "Red Tide," because the algae bloom can be
colorful, but Himelbloom says that is not the case in Alaska:
-- (PSP 2 16 sec "The
dinoflagellate or microscopic algae, ... microorganism or algae.")
some food toxins, there is no way to make a PSP-infested shellfish safe to eat.
Himelbloom calls the saxitoxins that produce PSP "scary:"
-- (PSP 3 14 sec "Unfortunately
the chemistry of ... they're very stable compounds.")
to being hardy, they are very poisonous. Himelbloom says it takes ingestion of
very, very little to be fatal:
-- (PSP 4 31 sec "Zero
point zero zero zero zero 35 ounce ... that person dies.")
PSP usually start with tingling lips and then fingers and toes in as little as
10 minutes after ingestion. Death can come within just a few hours.
that when you're out enjoying the 4th of July, because PSP does not
take a holiday.