The more frequent occurrence of both marine and freshwater toxic algal blooms and recent problems with new toxic events have increased the risk for illness and negatively impacted sustainable public access to safe shellfish and recreational waters in Washington State. Marine toxins that affect safe shellfish harvest in the state are the saxitoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), domoic acid that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) and the first ever US closure in 2011 due to diarrhetic shellfish toxins that cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP). Likewise, the freshwater toxins microcystins, anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsins, and saxitoxins have been measured in state lakes, although cylindrospermopsins have not yet been measured above state regulatory guidance levels. This increased incidence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) has necessitated the partnering of state regulatory programs with citizen and user-fee sponsored monitoring efforts such as SoundToxins, the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) partnership and the state’s freshwater harmful algal bloom passive (opportunistic) surveillance program that allow citizens to share their observations with scientists. Through such integrated programs that provide an effective interface between formalized state and federal programs and observations by the general public, county staff and trained citizen volunteers, the best possible early warning systems can be instituted for surveillance of known HABs, as well as for the reporting and diagnosis of unusual events that may impact the future health of oceans, lakes, wildlife, and humans.
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