The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project has set its sights on finding out more about the impact of these naturally occurring blooms on wild salmon.

Phytoplankton specialist Svetlana Esenkulova has been studying the effects on salmon in the Strait of Georgia using samples collected by volunteer citizen scientists working as part of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project. The volunteers collected thousands of samples over a three -year period, paving the way for a massive amount of data.

The findings are now in and Dr. Esenkulova’s research reveals clogged gills, damaged tissue, lethargic behaviour and increased mortality during toxic blooms. Even when the blooms were considered non-harmful, the findings still show an impact – salmon eat less and travel in less typical patterns through the water.

The research is the first of its kind, and the collaboration of science and citizen science volunteers made it possible to capture a unique snapshot over larger scales of time and geography – providing clues to the larger mystery of what’s affecting wild salmon in the Salish Sea.

– image courtesy of the Pacific Salmon Foundation