Study finds seafood not harmed by Pfiesteria

RALEIGH, NC. North Carolina Sea Grant scientists have found that seafood exposed to Pfiesteria is safe for consumers to eat. In a three-year study of fish from the New and Neuse rivers in Eastern North Carolina, researchers found no link between harmful effects of Pfiesteria - a tiny marine organism associated with fish kills and health problems in those who work the waters - and seafood consumption.

"There is no evidence supporting the uptake of potentially toxic substances from Pfiesteria," said North Carolina Sea Grant researcher Dave Green, who is an associate professor of food science at NC State University and director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City. "Our studies found no link between fish exposed to potentially toxic compounds produced by Pfiesteria and the edible tissues of seafood."

Green collaborated on the study with NC State toxicologist Patricia McClellan-Green, NC State veterinary immunologist Edward Noga and former NC State graduate research assistant Eric Balmer Hanchey. The Sea Grant researchers sampled edible tissues from non-exposed fish and fish environmentally exposed to Pfiesteria, including menhaden, southern flounder, spot, croaker, mullet and bluefish.

"The only species found to have a toxic effect was menhaden - primarily menhaden with open sores," said McClellan-Green, adjunct research assistant professor at Duke University Marine Lab. The stability of the toxic compounds associated with Pfiesteria appears to be relatively short, she said. "There is very little chance that fish from a localized area where Pfiesteria is active will be harvested and placed into commercial seafood distribution channels."

Since specific toxic agents have not been identified for Pfiesteria, researchers have adopted a bioassay using mouse nerve cells to

Contact: Dave Green
National Sea Grant College Program

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