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In July 1927, the city of San Francisco was gripped by alarm as
people began dying after eating mussels gathered on the beach.
Within a few years, scientists had identified the cause, a dangerous
algal toxin called saxitoxin. Many deaths from algal hazards have
been prevented in recent decades by careful monitoring, consumer
education and strategic fisheries closings. New research has
elucidated the movement of algal toxins through food webs and
implicated them in marine mammal strandings; furthermore,
archaeological evidence suggests they have been a hazard since
ancient times. Protection against algal toxins, a facet of many
maritime cultures, is the aim of new technology being deployed along
the California coast.
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