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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Research on Pfiesteria

Fourth Update: June 8, 2007

Pfiesteria are a group of unicellular microorganisms that live in Bay Photo estuaries (back bay waters where rivers mix with ocean water). When large numbers of fish are present, and other environmental conditions are right, these organisms can multiply and secrete one or more toxins (poisons) that can kill fish and shellfish and can also cause adverse health effects in humans exposed to the waters or to vapors emanating from the waters in a fish kill area. Pfiesteria have caused or contributed to a number of large fish kills along the east coast from FL to DE, most frequently in NC and MD. Some adverse human health effects in laboratory workers and bay fishermen have been associated with exposure during Pfiesteria-related fish kill events.

Sampling PhotoThe NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) have prepared a document entitled "Pfiesteria: Background Information and Contingency Plan." This document dictates response protocols to be used by DHSS, DEP, and county and local health and emergency response personnel in the event of a Pfiesteria-related fish kill.

Research scientists in DEP’s Division of Science, Research & Technology have prepared an additional document that describe research conducted in NJ on Pfiesteria.

Pfiesteria Monitoring in New Jersey 1998 – 2000: (6/8/07)

In addition, a MS Power Point presentation entitled "Pfiesteria." is a series of slides that provide additional background information on these organisms.

Related Links

For questions concerning Pfiesteria, please contact Dr. Thomas Atherholt, Research Scientist for the Division of Science, Research & Technology.

Office of Science
Dr. Gary A. Buchanan, Manager

Mailing Address:
Mail code 428-01, P.O. Box 420
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 0862
Office Location:
428 East State St., 1st floor
Trenton, NJ 08625
Phone: (609) 984-6070
Fax: (609) 292-7340


For Information regarding this site, please contact Terri Tucker.

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P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 1, 2010