Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 493–504 | Cite as

Presence of Alexandrium catenella and paralytic shellfish toxins in finfish, shellfish and rock crabs in Monterey Bay, California, USA

  • Rozalind J. Jester
  • Keri A. Baugh
  • Kathi A. Lefebvre
Original Paper


The central California coast is a highly productive, biodiverse region that is frequently affected by the toxin-producing dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella. Despite the consistent presence of A. catenella along our coast, very little is known about the movement of its toxins through local marine food webs. In the present study, we investigated 13 species of commercial finfish and rock crabs harvested in Monterey Bay, California for the presence of paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) and compared them to the presence of A. catenella and PSTs in sentinel shellfish over a 3-year period. Between 2003 and 2005, A. catenella was noted in 55% of surface water samples (n = 307) and reached a maximum concentration of 17,387 cells L−1 at our nearshore site in Monterey Bay. Peak cell densities occurred in the month of July and were associated with elevated shellfish toxicity in the summers of 2004 and 2005. When A. catenella was present, particulate PSTs were detected 71% of the time and reached a maximum concentration of 962 ng STXeq L−1. Of the 13 species tested, we frequently detected PSTs in Pacific sardines (Sardinops sagax; maximum 250 μg STXeq 100 g−1), northern anchovies (Engraulis mordax; maximum 23.2 μg STXeq 100 g−1), brown rock crabs (Cancer antennarius; maximum 49.3 μg STXeq 100 g−1) and red rock crabs (C. productus; 23.8 μg STXeq 100 g−1). PSTs were also present in one sample of Pacific herring (Clupea pallas; 13.3 μg STXeq 100 g−1) and one sample of English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus; 4.5 μg STXeq 100 g−1), and not detected in seven other species of flatfish tested. The presence of PSTs in several of these organisms reveals that toxins produced by A. catenella are more prevalent in California food webs than previously thought and also indicates potential routes of toxin transfer to higher trophic levels.


Domoic Acid Planktivorous Fish Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Mouse Bioassay English Sole 



We would like to thank the individuals who assisted in sample collection, especially Kurt Buck, Josh Plant, Capt. Lee Bradford, Chris Reeves, Don Pearson, Itchung Cheung, Veronica Vigilant and the crew of the R/V Pt. Lobos. Special thanks are due to Gregg Langlois of CDPH for information on local HAB conditions and to Vera Trainer for access to lab space and helpful discussions. This material is based on work supported under a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and was funded by NOAA Center for Integrated Marine Technology (CIMT) project (NOAA Award #NA16OC2936-3) and a University of California Office of the President Award to M. Silver (03T-CEQI-07-0062). Additional funding was awarded to R. Jester by the Friends of Long Marine Lab, the PADI Foundation and the Meyers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust Award.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Supplementary material

227_2008_1103_MOESM1_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Collection dates, number of specimens pooled (n) and total weight of viscera for planktivorous fish and hepatopancreas for crabs (DOC 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Open AccessThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rozalind J. Jester
    • 1
  • Keri A. Baugh
    • 2
  • Kathi A. Lefebvre
    • 2
  1. 1.Ocean Science DepartmentUniversity of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Marine Biotoxins Program, Environmental Conservation DivisionNorthwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA-FisheriesSeattleUSA

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