Seafood dealers have recovered 98 percent of the mussels that were recalled after being harvested in an area of Down East Maine currently experiencing an algae bloom that produces a potentially deadly biotoxin.

Officials estimate 58,480 pounds of mussels were affected by the recall initiated Friday. In a statement Tuesday, the Maine Department of Marine Resources said 57,492 pounds, or 98 percent of the impacted product, had been recovered in the three days following the recall.

“At this point the recall is complete and due to the cooperation of the dealers involved we have been able to recover nearly all of the affected product,” Kohl Kanwit, director of the department’s Public Health Bureau, said in a written statement.

The department did not respond to an email Tuesday night seeking further details on the recall, including where the impacted mussels were recovered or if recalled product had reached consumers through retail sales or restaurants. Mussels were the only product recalled, the department said. During a recall for the same biotoxin last year, affected shellfish made it as far as Missouri and Utah before being recovered.

The recall was announced after officials found elevated levels of domoic acid in shellfish harvested in Frenchman Bay between Mount Desert Island and Gouldsboro.

Domoic acid is sometimes produced by intense blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine phytoplankton. The toxin stores in the flesh of bivalves like mussels, clams and oysters and can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning, which can produce illness and, in extreme cases, brain damage or death in humans.

The recall only affected mussels harvested in the area from Sept. 10 to14. It is unknown if all the mussels were contaminated with toxin. Five shellfish dealers were ordered to provide a list of all customers and the amount of mussels sold, and to provide regular written reports on recall activities to the Department of Marine Resources.

Dealers were ordered to destroy recalled mussels with bleach, the department said in a statement.

Frenchman Bay, where the mussels were harvested, is currently closed to the harvesting of mussels, clams, oysters and whelks.

A precautionary shellfish harvesting ban has been enacted on about a third of the Maine coast, including a section of the Penobscot River north of Stockton Springs, areas around Vinalhaven, Isle au Haut and Swans Island, and the coastline from Mount Desert Island to the easternmost tip of the state.

The Department of Marine Resources detected a high volume of Pseudo-nitzschia in the Penobscot River and Cobscook Bay around Eastport and Lubec, but shellfish tested in those areas do not have elevated levels of domoic acid.

The closures and recall are mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if domoic acid exceeds a limit of 20 parts per million in shellfish flesh.

Harvesting areas will be reopened after shellfish score below the FDA limit in two consecutive tests at least a week apart.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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