Presentation: Climate Change and the Effects on Native Lands Move the video position slider to 52:30, you can catch Chris Whitehead (Sitka) talk about his vision for the Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxin partnership.
Knowing that consuming untested shellfish can lead to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) leaves you with only two options: 1) don’t go clamming or 2) find a way to test your shellfish. Until recently, the only lab capable of testing shellfish was the State’s DEC lab in Anchorage. That lab is already prohibitively far away for most Southeast Alaskan users, but it also prioritizes commercial samples. That meant that for people in Southeast, the only safe way to eat shellfish was to buy them from the store.
The Sitka Tribe of Alaska built an Environmental Research Lab (STA-ERL) to give shellfish harvesters around Southeast a way of testing subsistence shellfish. The lab uses a Receptor Binding Assay (RBA) to determine the concentration of paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) in a shellfish sample. The RBA method is able to test for total toxicity since there are over 20 congeners of PSTs that can cause PSP. An Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) is used to quantitatively test for domoic acid. Higher concentrations of domoic acid in shellfish can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP). If shellfish have unsafe levels of toxins in them, the Sitka Tribe will send out a community-wide alert. Over the next year, STEARL will also work toward certification from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, allowing it to test commercial dive samples as well. Both commercial and subsistence toxin testing are focused on increasing the SEATOR partnership’s and local citizen’s access to local shellfish.
Shellfish will be tested the first full business day after they are received unless otherwise noted. You will be contacted with your results as soon as they become available. We will follow the FDA-approved guidelines of not more than 80 µg/100g of shellfish for saxitoxins and not more than 20 ppm for domoic acid to determine whether shellfish are safe or unsafe. Please note: as a general rule, we will not publish your results any further as long as all samples come back under regulatory limits for toxins. If any samples come back unsafe, however, we reserve the right to issue a community advisory for the area.