PORTLAND - Scientists and policymakers are holding a three-day summit in Portland to analyze the effects of harmful algal blooms along the West Coast and to discuss ways to develop a more effective monitoring process for Oregon, Washington and California.

A free public session will be held on Thursday, Feb. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel, 1401 S.W. Naito Parkway, in Portland.

The West Coast Regional Harmful Algal Bloom Summit, which runs from Monday through Thursday was instigated by the West Coast Governors' Agreement on Ocean Health.

Harmful algal blooms are increasing worldwide and are of significant concern to coastal communities, organizers say. Though phytoplankton blooms are critical for ocean production, some of them produce toxins that accumulate in razor clams and other shellfish, poisoning those who consume them and closing clam, oyster and mussel beds to commercial and recreational harvests.

These harmful blooms are not only a public health threat, they can have a significant economic impact, according to Peter Strutton, an Oregon State University oceanographer and one of the coordinators of the summit.

One such bloom in 2002-03 caused razor clam and Dungeness crab closures in Washington that resulted in losses of more than $10 million, and a closure of the razor clam fishery in Clatsop County cost local communities an estimated $4.8 million. Toxic algae also have been blamed for 14,000 sick or dead seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, birds and gray whales along the West Coast."

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