HTML _ 97-1047 - Pfiesteria and Related Harmful Blooms: Natural Resource and Human Health Concerns
8-Dec-1997; Eugene Buck Claudia Copeland Jeffrey Zinn, Donna U. Vogt; 24 / 2 p.

Abstract: Congress, federal agencies, and affected states are seeking to better understand Pfiesteriapiscicida (a recently identified species of dinofiagellate) and related species, whose blooms release toxins that can harm fish and possibly human health under certain conditions. Although menhaden, an industrial fish used primarily in fishmeal and oil production, is the dominant species observed to have been killed by these organisms, consumers have reduced their purchases of Chesapeake Bay seafood after extensive media coverage highlighted toxic events. Both the water and lipid-soluble toxins of Pfiesteria and related species have been blamed for adverse health effects in people who have come in contact with affected waters. Many scientists believe that nutrient enrichment of waters plays a role in Pfiesteria outbreaks, but the exact mechanisms are unclear. Some agricultural activities, especially large livestock facilities, are concentrated sources of nutrients, which can leach into ground and surface waters. In Maryland, phosphorous from these sources has attracted considerable attention, because it is often the limiting factor whose increase encourages blooms of aquatic organisms such as Pfiesteria. However, agricultural interests believe that this attention unfairly singles out agriculture, and they are investigating alternative explanations. Most agree that more investigation is required to develop a better understanding of the role of nutrient pollution. In affected watersheds, agricultural agencies and interests are both collecting information to characterize current farming enterprises and conservation accomplishments more fully and increasing staff and financial resources to work with farmers on reducing nutrient concentrations. While individual states seek to address concerns and determine how to mitigate associated impacts, Congress and federal agencies are considering how best to assist state efforts. Federal and state governments have funded surveillance efforts as well as research into testing and characterization of the toxins and their effect on human health. Reauthorization of the Clean Water Act, which could occur in the 2nd Session of the 105th Congress, may give policymakers opportunities to consider what role that Act might play in addressing Pfiesteria-related and similar water quality problems. Legislative attention to research and related topics also could occur. Although initially it appeared easy to assume that Pfiesteria or related organisms were the problem and that agricultural practices were the cause, state and federal agencies are examining a broad array of causes and remedies. One example of a broad approach to these problems is provided in the November 1997 report by the Blue Ribbon Citizen's Pfiesteria Action Commission to Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, which will be the basis for further actions by the Maryland Legislature. [read report]

Topics: Marine

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