Dr. Larry Brand is a marine biology professor and algae research specialist at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL. He has extensive knowledge of red tide and cyanobacteria and has seen firsthand how the toxins produced by algal blooms can devastate marine food webs.
From crabs, to fish, to apex predators like dolphins, cyanobacterial toxins like microcystin and BMAA travel up the food chain, their intensity becoming magnified as they go. Dr. Brand has researched the levels of bioaccumulated toxins found in animals from affected areas. His latest research, in collaboration with neurologists and other marine biology researchers, looks at the effects of a neurotoxin produced by cyanobacteria, BMAA, on six dolphins that died after exposure to toxic algae in the Indian River Lagoon. The results revealed BMAA in the brains of five of them, as well as neuropathological changes comparable to human neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In a video available here, Brand also described troubling behavior in dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon, such as swimming upriver into freshwater lakes, confused and lost, which may seem reminiscent of people struggling with dementia. Our sentinel species may be providing a look at our own toxin exposure and its consequences. Brand has seen enough to say he won’t eat any seafood caught in bodies of water that get these blue-green algae blooms.
That includes Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries its water is discharged into. As we enter the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, operational management that prioritizes human health and safety right now--not years from now--is more important than ever.