Neurotoxin Shellfish Poisoning

Shawn Ferguson 

RE: 9. Karenia brevis


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Week 2 Discussion– Karenia brevis


Karenia brevis is a toxic algae more commonly known as “red tide”. This year, the red tide bloom in the state of Florida was worse than in previous years, an article by Jones (2021) reports. Karenia brevis is hazardous to marine wildlife, and with the increase in this year’s bloom, thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of Florida beaches, and the toxicity of the water led sharks to find refuge in canals (Jones, 2021). Red tide blooms of this proportion pose a serious risk to people as well. Sea food lovers can fall ill with Neurotoxin Shellfish Poisoning (NSP), from eating shellfish that is infected with Karenia brevis, or they can develop respiratory illness by inhaling Karenia brevis by way of air-borne toxic aerosols (Pierce, Henry, 2008). The risk to the health of people during red tide blooms negatively impacts Florida’s vacation industry, as many people travel worldwide to enjoy the sunshine state, and beaches may have to be closed during a severe red tide bloom. While most red tide blooms are mild and short lived, there have been severe blooms recorded lasting as long as 18 months, which could economically devastate a beach town that relies on tourism (Pierce, Henry, 2008). K brevis releases a toxin called brevetoxin, which is fatally toxic to marine wildlife, the dead wildlife then performs as a fertilizer to produce more of this algae (Jones, 2021). The red tide blooms are a natural phenomena, the blooms have been observed and documented for hundreds of years (Jones, 2021). However, the article says that human interference to the ocean’s ecosystem may be playing a role in the increase and severity of the red tide blooms, through their contribution to global warming due to pollution and growing populations, especially around the coastal regions (Jones, 2021). The cause for severe red tide blooms varies, it’s usually several contributing factors. The cause for this year’s severe bloom was from natural causes like strong winds blowing the bloom to the shore where it could feed off pollution, and hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater were released into the ocean in the Tampa Bay region (Jones, 2021). While Karenia brevis is a natural occurrence, it seems that if we do our part to limit pollution and try to keep our oceans clean, we may be able to control the severity of the blooms.


WC- 396




Jones, B. (2021). Why so many dead fish are washing up on Florida’s beaches. Vox.



Pierce, R. H., & Henry, M. S. (2008). Harmful algal toxins of the Florida red tide (Karenia brevis): natural chemical stressors in South Florida coastal ecosystems. Ecotoxico

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