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Test results released Thursday showed the blob wasn't oil, but a plant — a massive bloom of algae. While that may seem less dangerous, a lot of people are still uneasy. It's something the mostly Inupiat Eskimo residents along Alaska's northern coast say they could never remember seeing before.
(See pictures of the Arctic.)
Algal blooms are a common and often menacing event along many U.S. coastlines. Some strains are toxic and can close beaches and poison seafood, posing a hazard to consumers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains a forecasting system for the Gulf of Mexico to warn of harmful Florida blooms. On Thursday, on the other side of the continent, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, urged NOAA to direct at least $500,000 to assess a disastrous red tide — a form of algal bloom. "The state of Maine is currently besieged by the most virulent red tide event ever recorded in the region," Snowe wrote. "As a result of this outbreak, virtually the entire coast of our state has been closed to the harvest of clams, mussels, ocean quahogs, and other shellfish."
So far in Alaska, nothing suggests the Chukchi Sea blob is toxic, although the Coast Guard's Hasenauer said toxicity tests were planned.