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Southern Kenai Peninsula Shellfish Monitoring Program

August 10, 2012

Below is a message from Reserve Manager, Terry Thompson:

Good afternoon, I’m writing to you today with the initial results from our first testing of recreationally harvested shellfish for paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) here on the Southern Kenai Peninsula. This introductory email will provide you with an overview of the project – future updates will only focus on monthly results.

The State of Alaska, Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Health solicited proposals from government organizations (municipalities, boroughs, state agencies, tribal governments) who wished to participate in the Recreational Shellfish Beach Monitoring Pilot Program. This program is designed to create partnerships with communities near popular recreational shellfish collection beaches to establish a community program to monitor commonly harvested shellfish for paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) and to educate the community about the results of the sampling. This program also includes community outreach and education regarding PST and paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).  A consortium of partners on the Southern Kenai Peninsula were selected to conduct this program and who have committed to a three-year period of collaborative activities with the DEH. This consortium, led by the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve will:

1. Establish a recreational shellfish beach monitoring program on select beaches.
2. Promote awareness about the program and educate the community about paralytic shellfish toxins.
3. Collect samples and ship them to the State of Alaska Environmental Health Laboratory (EHL) for analysis.
4. Communicate the sample results to the community in a timely manner.
5. Provide feedback to DEH for program improvement.

Background / Description of Project

The Recreational Shellfish Beach Monitoring Pilot Program is a three-year pilot program that will partner selected coastal communities with the Division of Environmental Health for the purpose of developing a community-based recreational paralytic shellfish toxin (PST) monitoring program. The goal of the monitoring program is to increase knowledge of local PST trends and to establish knowledge of the risks of PST in specific harvests. This program is not sufficient to certify beaches as “safe” or completely ensure harvester safety from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) or domoic acid poisoning.

One community has been selected from each major coastal region (Southeast, Southcentral, and Southwest).  Communities that have been selected to participate in this program have demonstrated a desire to manage the collection and shipment of shellfish samples to the Environmental Health Laboratory, publish test results in a manner that is accessible to local harvesters and community members, and generate outreach and educational materials for the community.

Southern Kenai Peninsula Shellfish Monitoring Program

Our partnership will focus our energies on these selected beaches and selected shellfish species – all of which have, or do, receive heavy use by recreational and subsistence shellfish harvesters.
                Ninilchik – north and south beaches         Species: razor clams
                Port Graham Bay                             Species: butter clams
                Jakolof Bay – Kachemak Bay                  Species: butter clams and littleneck clams
                China Poot Bay  – Kachemak Bay              Species: butter clams
                Bear Cove – Kachemak Bay                    Species: littleneck clams, blue mussels
                Homer Spit – Kachemak Bay                   Species: blue mussels

Who will be involved in our local area? Several partners have agreed to be actively involved in this proposal, each providing potential harvesters of shellfish samples. For Ninilchik beaches the Ninilchik Tribal Council will provide volunteer harvesters for this project; Port Graham Bay will be monitored by Port Graham village residents led by the environmental staff of the Port Graham Village Council;  Kachemak Bay beaches will be monitored by staff from the Homer Fish and Game (ADF&G) office – Sport Fish Division; staff from the NOAA Kasitsna Bay laboratory; staff from the Seldovia Village Tribe; and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. Reserve staff also serve as the primary point-of-contact for this project.

Monitoring of all areas will occur during the months of traditional shellfish harvesting – May through September.

For more information: http://dec.alaska.gov/eh/RecShell/index.html

Our first monitoring occurred in late July 2012 and the following laboratory results were provided by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation / Environmental Health Laboratory:

LOCATION                         SPECIES                                                         TEST RESULTS
Ninilchik – north beach          Species: razor clams                <34 ug PSP; <0.05 mg/kg Domoic acid
Ninilchik – south beach          Species: razor clams                <34 ug PSP; <0.05 mg/kg Domoic acid
Port Graham Bay                  Species: butter clams                                  <34 ug PSP
Jakolof Bay – Kachemak Bay       Species: butter clams                                  <34 ug PSP
Jakolof Bay – Kachemak Bay       Species: littleneck clams                              <34 ug PSP
China Poot Bay  – Kachemak Bay   Species: butter clams                                  <34 ug PSP
Bear Cove – Kachemak Bay         Species: littleneck clams                              <34 ug PSP
Bear Cove – Kachemak Bay         Species: blue mussels                                  <34 ug PSP
Homer Spit – Kachemak Bay        Species: blue mussels                                  <34 ug PSP

All shellfish must have less than 80 ug (micrograms) of paralytic shellfish toxin/100g of tissue to be considered safe for human consumption. Using the mouse bioassay test, PSP levels below 34 ug cannot be detected.
For domoic acid, levels under 20 mg/kg (equivalent to the regulatory limit of 20 parts per million (ppm)) are considered safe for human consumption.

Monthly synopsis: All beaches showed undetectable levels of paralytic shellfish toxins during the week of July 18-20, 2012, and levels of domoic acid were extremely low as well.

For more information on this project please contact:

Terry Thompson
Reserve Manager
Kachemak Bay Research Reserve
Alaska Department of Fish and Game/Sport Fish Division
95 Sterling Highway, Suite 2
Homer, AK  99603
907 226-4656 (o)
907 299-0023 (c)
907 235-4794 (f)

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