THE AREA OFF BUNGANUC POINT in Maquoit Bay, where a 14-acre area of mud flats is anoxic, causing a die-off of soft-shell clams.

THE AREA OFF BUNGANUC POINT in Maquoit Bay, where a 14-acre area of mud flats is anoxic, causing a die-off of soft-shell clams.

BRUNSWICK

About $250,000 worth of soft-shell clams are being suffocated by an algae bloom in Maquoit Bay.

Brunswick Marine Warden Dan Devereaux said he was alerted to the die-off by clammers on Sunday, and that the bloom had not spread between then and Wednesday. About 80 percent of the clam beds in a 14-acre swath near Bunganuc Point have died, and Devereaux said the innards of the mollusks are rising to the surface.

Only soft-shell clams have been impacted by the algae growth, he confirmed, adding this bloom is atypical to the area and has made the mud anoxic in that location.

The clams were tested for two blooms associated with risk to public safety if the shellfish is consumed, but no toxic levels were detected, Devereaux said.

It is unknown what type of bloom is causing the die-off in Maquoit Bay, but there have been reports of a phytoplankton bloom never seen before in the state, Karenia mikimotoi, which has been seen in Australia, Ireland, Korea, Alaska and other geographic locations that resulted in shellfish and fish kills. Additional pathology will be conducted to determine the cause. That particular algae was reported in Harpswell and Portland.

The Department of Marine Resources is working to confirm the cause and extent of the mortality in towns reporting shellfish kills, according to a press release from the department issued on Tuesday. The department has reached out to the shellfish industry, aquaculture leaseholders and seafood dealers in Casco Bay region, informing them of the bloom and advising them to develop plans to protect their product if effects of toxins or low oxygen are identified.

The warden said area shell fishermen have been in constant communication with him, each other, and the Department of Marine Resources regarding where the bloom may be headed and whether the bloom is spreading. As of now, there are no remediation efforts afoot, Devereaux said.

“It’s part of life in Maine, and we have to be diligent about identifying areas and developing strategies to minimize impact,” he said.

About 50 clammers are impacted by this bloom, and others could be impacted in the future because the town decides how many licenses to issue each year based on the previous year’s landings. “The economic trickle-down can have a big impact on a community,” Devereaux said.

Devereaux said there remain many questions about the bloom and said the cause could be a combination of factors, including nutrient runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and currents that play a part in moving algae.

“The ocean is like a big petri dish,” Devereaux said. “Some blooms are toxic, some are not.”

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