Combined research efforts by scientists involved in the Gulf of Maine Toxicity (GOMTOX) project, funded by NOAA’s Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) program, and administered by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), have led to enhanced understanding of toxic algal blooms on Georges Bank. This new information, coupled with an at-sea and dockside testing protocol developed through collaboration between GOMTOX and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators, has allowed fishermen to harvest ocean quahogs and surf clams in these offshore waters for the first time in more than two decades.
The shellfish industry estimates the Georges Bank fishery can produce up to 1 million bushels of surf clams and ocean quahogs a year, valued $10 – 15 million annually. “There is a billion dollars’ worth of shellfish product on Georges Bank that is property of the United States but that can’t be harvested because of the threat of toxicity, and 99.9% of the time, it is good wholesome product,” says Dave Wallace of North Atlantic Clam Association and a GOMTOX participant. “In an unusual and unique partnership, we worked with GOMTOX scientists, the FDA, and the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware and now that huge resource can go into commerce, which helps the entire country.” (more…)