WSG News Blog

Researchers Discover Yessotoxins, Produced by Certain Phytoplankton, to be a Culprit Behind Summer Mass Shellfish Mortality Events in Washington

June 17, 2021

Dying clams on Hood Canal, Rocky Bay, 2019.King et al, Harmful Algae, 2021

Back in the summers of 2018 and 2019, the shellfish industry in Washington state was rocked by mass mortalities of its crops.

“It was oysters, clams, cockles — all bivalve species in some bays were impacted,” said Teri King, aquaculture and marine water quality specialist at Washington Sea Grant based at the University of Washington. “They were dying, and nobody knew why.”

Now, King and partners from NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Northwest Indian College and AquaTechnics Inc. think that they have finally sleuthed out the culprit: high concentrations of yessotoxinss, which are produced by blooms of certain phytoplankton. The researchers’ findings were published last month in the open-access journal Harmful Algae.

Read the rest of the article in UW News.