Transmission of Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins Through the Food Web

Researchers survey for domoic acid and saxitoxin in fish species that are caught in tribal commercial fisheries along the California Current.

Principal Investigator

Adrianne Akmajian, Makah Fisheries Management

Co-Principal Investigators

Jonathan Scordino, Makah Fisheries Management


The Makah tribal usual and accustomed fishing grounds are located in the California Current, a highly productive feeding area for marine mammals, seabirds and fish, but also subject to harmful algal blooms (HABs) that produce toxins, such as domoic acid and saxitoxin. During HAB events, associated toxins can accumulate throughout the food web from zooplankton to fish, and even to marine mammals. This project focuses on how algal toxins are transmitted through the offshore coastal food web. The primary goal is to survey for domoic acid and saxitoxinin in fish species that are caught in tribal commercial fisheries. The project will also survey the feces of nearshore feeding gray whales and their zooplankton prey. Data collected will inform managers and fishermen on current algal toxin concentrations in harvested fish and identify potential for exposure to humans and other mammals, such as gray whales.