Scientists can typically determine whether the algae or bacteria are harmful within two days of the bloom, but by then the damage might already be done. If shellfish and other seafood were harvested during a bloom, or shortly before it, the toxin could have made its way to fish markets and dinner plates by the time scientists identify it, prompting public health alerts and expensive recalls of potentially tainted food.
Near the end of July, a group led by Stanford-affiliated marine scientists launched a robotic sensor into Puget Sound's Samish Bay to sniff out the early signs of algal and bacterial blooms in near real time.
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