The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.



Because of the decision of Blogger to change its upload system, we have been forced to change the address of this blog and its RSS feed. This site will still be good for the Coastal Packet archives but new postings will be found at

The new RSS feed address will be

If, for any reason, these don't work, you can come back to the origianal site or to for updates.

Sorry, it wasn't our idea.  

PS: The switch forces us to post this message before the transfer is actually made, so be patient.  It is now one pm eastern time on Sunday. 


WMTW - The Morse River has finally changed its course and no longer threatens the beach and new bathhouses at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg, according to Maine Department of Conservation officials.

The radical shift in the river channel is expected to result in coming years in an even larger beach area for visitors to the popular beach, said officials with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and Maine Geological Survey.

The new beach already was beginning to form, and while it still will be narrow this spring at high tide, the summer beach area will be "better than last year with the promise of being spectacular by the summer of 2012," Stephen Dickson, marine geologist with the Maine Geological Survey, said Thursday.

"There will be more beach-blanket space," Dickson promised, adding that it "ends the threat of erosion to the new bathhouses."

"This is certainly what we've been looking and hoping for, for the Morse River to return to its original channel and allow the beach to rebuild itself," Will Harris, BPL director, said. "Once the beach gets re-established, we know that rebuilding the dunes will take time, but this is a necessary first step."

Erosion had threatened the beach, dunes and new $1.4 million bathhouses constructed at the park as the river washed sand out to sea.

Geologists predicted that the problem would ease when a break occurred in a sandbar that had built out from the neighboring Seawall Beach.

The break, or breach as geologists call it, has been seen forming for several months and had been getting deeper with each storm. Meanwhile, temporary tree barricades were constructed earlier this year and successfully slowed down the river's erosion of the dunes along the park beach.

Nature's progress in creating the sand bar breach was slow until the Feb. 25-26 storm, with its coastal flooding followed by days of extremely high tides. There had been other big winter storms working at the breach, but that storm, followed by a period of extended high tides, "let the low spot deepen into a full channel and set a new direction for the Morse River in about a week's time," as state geologists had predicted, Dickson explained.

Such a major shift in a river channel "is extremely rare in Maine, and for Popham Beach might occur once in every 20 to 30 years," Dickson said. He described Popham Beach as "the most dynamic beach in the state" because of the Morse River's movement.


WCSH - A legislative committee has agreed on a plan that allows 8 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Patients and caregivers would have to register with the department of health and human services and obtain a state-issued identity card to legally purchase marijuana. Maine is one of 13 states that allows medical use of marijuana. But there was no formal system for obtaining the marijuana other than growing small amounts until last November, when voters expanded the law.


MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING'S CAPITOL CONNECTION - Corinne Ouellette Is this the proper place to complain about the new digital TV box we were all bullied into getting? If Walter Cronkite was still alive he would have your asses. . . . MPBN Capitol Connection: Sorry Corinne. This is not the proper place to complain about your digital box. It is, however, the proper place to complain about state government, political parties, the congressional delegation, your taxes or anything else that has to do with government or politics...And, for the record, I don't think Walter would be interested in mine -- but, stranger things have happened.


STAN MOODY, SOLITARY WATCH - There are 4,000 or more people incarcerated in Maine at the moment. Keeping watch over them are hundreds of prison guards, most of whom would rather be home than spending love's holiday doing cavity search or bed counts.

There is a widow in upstate NY who reels from a double-whammy of a brilliant, successful husband who confessed to a sexual assault and the memory of his ashes arriving 6 months later from Maine State Prison with the notice that he had died of “natural causes.” Then another whammy -finding out 6 weeks later, after she had buried him, that it was a homicide and that prison officials had known as much within minutes of his death -officially, within 2 days.

There are others who come to mind who are reeling, as well, from conflict over what to do about this situation that, if brought into the light, will explode into a full-blown crisis. Maine Department of Corrections officials are on pins and needles, wondering what is going to happen when this explodes. . .

I have a picture in my mind of the Attorney General's Office vainly searching for a good option to prosecute somebody for this death without smearing the prison system. It has been nearly 10 months since Weinstein died alone in his cell of a ruptured spleen presumed to have been caused by an inmate assault 4 days earlier. It is not as though they had to go looking for a suspect or that the evidence was scattered over 50 states. Nobody was going anywhere. Justice is slow and nearly blind, but it gets slower and blinder when a state agency is implicated.

It is easier to digest this story if we can somehow de-humanize people caught up in the meat grinder we call justice–guards and prisoners alike. Whether you like it or not, however, all players in the justice drama are human beings, Weinstein included. It is that very humanity that cries out for reform of the efficient, military, detached environment that we call Maine State Prison.

It was Friday, April 24, 2009. I was finishing my rounds as Chaplain at the Special Management Unit when I came to the end of the dreaded B1 corridor, looked in and saw Sheldon Weinstein sitting on his wheelchair with his legs across his bunk, 10 feet away. He smiled when he saw me and joked about how old men like him and me were targets in prison. I saw his hugely black eye and asked him if he had other injuries. He pointed to his stomach. He then asked me if I could help get him some toilet paper. He had been using his pillow case, but since he had no pillow, it didn't matter anyway, I suppose.

I spent probably 10 minutes talking/shouting with Sheldon through a steel cell door. I then left and asked a guard on duty to see that he got some toilet paper.

I came in the next morning and was told that Weinstein was found dead at around 6:00 pm that evening. His posture had been reversed. He was lying across his bunk, with his feet in his wheelchair. He had yellow complexion, suggesting liver or spleen, his stomach was distended, and rigor mortis had begun to set in, indicating that he probably had died within an hour or two after I left.

My amateur diagnosis of cause of death was ruptured spleen, confirmed by autopsy within 2 days. Almost universally, the reaction of captains, guards, sergeants and inmates was, "Good riddance! One less mouth to feed!” One prisoner, however, had taken it upon himself before the assault to wheel confessed sex offender Weinstein to the chow hall to prevent him from being spit upon.

When they found him, Weinstein did have toilet paper. . .

Adding intrigue to the situation, the guard whom I asked to provide toilet paper was placed on Administrative Leave almost immediately. The guard who was on duty in the housing unit where Weinstein was assaulted was fired.

The test for first degree murder is malice aforethought - that is, that the person or persons involved plotted and intended to kill. That, however, is problematic in the case of Maine State Prison. Here's why.

Assaults of inmates by other inmates not only are common there but may be, some believe, tacitly encouraged. In Weinstein's case, it began with the decision to place him in a minimum security housing unit notorious for attacks on sex offenders. Beating sex offenders and "rats" (people who give the names of those who beat them) was so common that it had become routine. The victim would be given the signature black eye and be placed in segregation for his own protection for months, while those who carried out the assault would often be out within 10 days.

I have written an exhaustive narrative on the circumstances surrounding the death of Prisoner Weinstein but will hold that narrative until I sense that there is movement toward justice in this case. There can be no rationalization for his crime. Yet, he was not sentenced to the death to which he was consigned. He had a surprising background that defies common stereotypes of sex offenders. The way in which prison officials handled the matter with his surviving family speaks volumes about a profound failure of conscience.

Stan Moody is a former state representative and chaplain at the Maine State Prison, where he ministered to inmates in the supermax unit. Moody, who currently serves as pastor at the Meeting House Church in Manchester, Maine, is the author of the books Crisis in Evangelical Scholarship and McChurched: 300 Million Served and Still Hungry.



The St Patrick's Day temperature in Portland was 64 degrees - up two degrees from the previous record for the date set in 1990.





An examination of gubernatorial candidate Leslie B. Otten's role in American Skiing Co. by the non-profit Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is the first in a series examining the claims and records of some of the leading candidates for governor.



FORECASTER - Documents filed with the Federal Trade Commission indicate Trader Joe's has agreed to acquire the former Wild Oats grocery store space on Marginal Way.

According to the FTC, the Monrovia, Calif.-based grocery store chain has an agreement to purchase the store from Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods acquired the Wild Oats company in 2007, but was ordered by the FTC to divest several Wild Oats stores it purchased to help restore competition. It closed the 87 Marginal Way store, at the intersection with Preble Street, around the same time the Whole Foods on Somerset Street opened.

The FTC on March 10 announced it was seeking comments on the proposed acquisition until April 9.

Mitch Katz, a spokesman for the FTC, said that after the comment period is over, the commission will review the submissions and make its decision.

"It can take a few months, but typically it doesn't take that long," Katz said.

If the commission approves, Trader Joe's would be free to move ahead with the acquisition. There is no time frame the grocery store would have to follow, Katz said.


PINE TREE POLITICS - The failure of the Green Party to produce a candidate after having made so much headway in this state over the last two decades represents a bitter disappointment that may spell the ultimate doom of Maine’s strongest third party. In the last several election cycles, Maine’s Green Party has enjoyed success and made gains that have been nationally significant, easily establishing itself as the Pine Tree State’s most relevant third party.


- In 1994, Green Party candidate Jonathan Carter received 32,695 votes – 6.39% of ballots cast
- In 1998, Green Party candidate Pat LaMarche received 28,722 votes – 6.82% of ballots cast
- In 2002, Green Party candidate Jonathan Carter received 46,903 votes – 9.28% of ballots cast
- In 2006, Green Party candidate Pat LaMarche received 52,150 votes – 9.60% of ballots cast

In each election, the Green Party received a higher percentage of the raw vote than in the previous election, slowly building legitimacy and experience.

Maine's political culture was the better for it. Green Party activists siphoning off a significant portion of the vote forces the comparatively moderate Democratic Party in Maine to take the left flank seriously and not simply take it for granted. That same division on the political left helps Republicans be perhaps more competitive than they otherwise would be in a pure two party state. Maine always kind of reminded me of a mini version the United Kingdom in many ways – with the Greens taking on the role of the Liberal-Democrats. . .

The Green Party should be safe from a complete demise, however, so long as 10,000 of their registered voters in the 2010 election [vote] – a turnout of 33%, which should be more than possible. Nonetheless, it is a major setback for the strongest Green Party organ in the United States, and one which will take a great deal of time to rebuild from.


KENNEBEC JOURNAL - A legislative committee has once again turned back a bid to allow charter schools in Maine, and instead opted for a more measured proposal to allow "innovative" schools in existing districts.

Maine is one of 11 states that don't allow charter schools, which are heavily favored by the Obama administration.

"We haven't done a great job of promoting what we have the ability to do right now," said Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono.

The innovative-schools bill "will, I think, raise the level of knowledge out there that there are potential resources and ways to incorporate (innovation) into the infrastructure that we have," she said.

That can be done without jeopardizing funds for local school districts, said Rep. Stephen Lovejoy, D-Portland.

"Where we are right now is, we're looking at another major drop in education funding," he said. "I would be very reluctant to do something that spreads dollars out even more."

The innovative schools allowed in the committee-approved measure would have more autonomy than their traditional counterparts over budgets, curriculum, staff assignments and scheduling. The schools, however, would still be district-run and subject to the same collective bargaining agreements as other district schools.


ACCORDING TO THE Maine International Trade Center, the states exports are down 24% from last year - back to where they were in 2002. Electronics and semiconductor exports were down 53%.




BOSTON GLOBE -Maine police and privacy advocates say they've reached an accord on how officers can use surveillance cameras that can read a vehicle's license plate. The two sides agreed that license plate recognition systems can only be used when police are doing a criminal investigation, are worried about public safety, are enforcing civil orders or are responding to law enforcement bulletins.


LYNNE WILLIAMS - I am suspending my campaign for governor, and will instead focus my energies towards building up our party by helping to elect Green Party candidates for state, county and local office.

Despite having more than 60 volunteer petition circulators working on my behalf, we fell short of the required 2,000 signatures from Green Independent Party members needed to put my name on the Party's primary ballot.

The party's candidate recruitment efforts were very successful. We have quality candidates who can win elections, and who will make a major difference in Augusta. Strong local candidates are the backbone of any political party, and our efforts on behalf of these local candidates will do more to build the party than a gubernatorial race would have.

A major problem in my campaign's signature-gathering effort was physically locating the small number of Maine voters who are enrolled in the party. While Democrats and Republicans have several hundred thousand party members from whom to solicit a signature, the Green Independent Party has fewer than 30,000 active voters. In addition many of those on the list are young, urban and mobile – including a high percentage of college students – who had joined the party four years ago and have since moved.

Green Independents from 93 towns and all 16 counties signed those forms in the 74 days we had to gather the signatures. But it was slow going. It was hard to find our members. Not only had many of them moved, but with the popularity of cell phones, only about a third of them had listed phone numbers.

In addition to voter apathy, our volunteers were also initially diverted from signature gathering by the additional requirements of the Maine Clean Election Law, requirements imposed by the Legislature in 2009, after I announced my candidacy.

By eliminating the requirement that parties had to run a gubernatorial candidate in order to maintain party status, the Democrats made it clear they did not want a Green Party candidate for governor on the ballot this year, and furthermore, if there was a Green Independent candidate, they did not want that candidate to be well funded. So they also made major changes to the Clean Election Law that discouraged small parties from taking advantage of that process.

The most onerous change was the new requirement that Clean Election candidates for governor must raise $40,000 in private funding – under much stricter requirements than those imposed on traditional gubernatorial candidates – before qualifying for public funding.

Basically the Legislature said that in order to not be dependent on private campaign funds we had to be dependent on private campaign funds. It's an illogical requirement that flies in the face of the intent of the law and is disrespectful of the citizens who voted to approve the Clean Election Act.

On top of that, the $40,000 had to come from Maine registered voters, who are already paying for the Clean Election Act through their taxes. Thus those who supported the law were subjected to a system of double taxation if they wanted the law to work as intended. This was an irresponsible act on the part of the Democratically-controlled Legislature.



LL BEAN sales were down again last year, albeit higher then its projections. The 6.6% decline was only the fourth since 1960. Despite the decline, the company gave its employees a 3% bonus.

WGME - There is some good economic news to report out of Freeport, as the town says the outlet shops have held up pretty well in this down economy. The town says more than 20 new businesses have opened in downtown Freeport in the past year alone.



TIMES RECORD - A contingent of six lobstermen from around the globe shared stories and best practices with their local counterparts Thursday night during an international dialogue hosted at the Phippsburg Fire Hall.

The event generated talk of greater collaboration between Maine and Canadian lobstermen, more ergonomically friendly gear used in Australia, and how Mainers might be able to break into a lucrative Asian market where New Zealand lobstermen sell catch for $28 per pound.

Maine lobstermen last year sold their catch at an average price of $2.93 per pound after fetching $3.50 per pound in 2008 and $4.39 per pound in 2007.


A JURY HAS ACQUITTED lobsterman Vance Buncker and his daughter of all counts in the shooting of another lobsterman on Matinicus Island. Christopher Young was shot in the neck on a island wharf. The jury took 1 1/2 days to make its decision. Bunker's argument was self defense, protecting his daughter. . . DETAILS


The Maine Warden Service thinks it's getting closer to finding the owner of that deadly (and dead) five foot long Africa viper found behind a movie theater in Saco. The wardens think the viper was released alive, but in any case, it's illegal to own such a creature in Maine.


MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING - A campaign to make Portland one of the first cities in the country to allow non-citizens to vote suffered a setback last night when the city's charter commission narrowly rejected the idea. But immigrants who converged on City Hall vowed to get the issue on the November ballot. . .

Immediately after the vote, murmurs went through the audience of more than 30 immigrants and their supporters. That prompted Commissioner Richard Ranaghan to turn to the chair, Pamela Plumb, and suggest that she explain what the commission had just done. "They understand, they understand," members of the audience responded.

Afterward, outside City Council chambers, some immigrants said they were angered by the comment and that it only steeled their resolve to press on with their campaign.

One of the leaders, Mohamed Dini, said the plan is to start collecting signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. "I guarantee you, we're coming back," Dini said.




WTOP, DC - So you're sitting in your home on a quiet Sunday afternoon, when all of a sudden a thunderous roar erupts. You get up to find that two deer have smashed through your front door. One is stuck in the door and the other is now in a tornadic tantrum in your living room.

This was the reality for WTOP staffer Pat Puglisi at his home in Damascus Sunday.

"Suddenly, there was a noise that sounded like the roof came off the house," recalls Puglisi.

"Debris was flying, chairs were coming apart, pots and pans were crashing. It was clear that these two deer had hit my front door like a SWAT team."

Scrambling to make sense of the situation, Puglisi was finally able to usher one deer out another door. The other deer stuck in the glass of the front door was seriously hurt and eventually put down by police.

Traumatic experience? You bet. Costly, too. But as it turns out, this sort of thing is not all that uncommon, especially considering what the deer population looks like in Maryland right now.

"Generally, if you have 20 to 30 deer per square mile, most people can live with that," says Brian Eyler, deer project leader for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.

"However, right now, in some urban and suburban areas there are 80 to 100 deer per square mile."

The main reason for the population explosion? A lack of predators.

"Humans are pretty much the only predator left when it comes to deer," says Eyler.

"Suburban developments are very good deer habitats -- but a lot of times, hunting is out of the picture. So if you take hunting out of the equation, there's nothing left to control the population."

State Farm Insurance estimates that every year, about 25,000 accidents on Maryland roads are caused by deer.



MAINE ACLU - Maine physicians have expressed concern about the Criminal Justice Committee 6 to 5 vote "ought not to pass" of "An Act to Ensure the Humane Treatment of Prisoners in the Special Management Unit." The physicians cited data provided by the Department of Corrections that demonstrates a significant percentage of prisoners in the SMU have been diagnosed with mental illness. Current research demonstrates that solitary confinement in the so-called special management unit can exacerbate mental illness or create mental illness where none previously existed.

"The Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians is strongly opposed to the use of administrative segregation (formerly called solitary confinement) based on its potential for creating and exacerbating severe mental illness, worsening cognitive impairment, crippling social skills, and its lack of rehabilitative value," said Dr. Janis Petzel, Executive Director of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians.

The Department of Corrections (reported to the Criminal Justice Committtee that as of February 1, 2010, 63% of prisoners in the SMU carried an Axis 1 diagnosis. 48% of prisoners in the SMU were receiving psychotropic medication of some type.

"Prisoners who have experienced segregation and who are released back to the community relapse back into criminal behavior sooner and more aggressively than their general prison population counterparts. Those who experience administrative or high risk segregation are known to experience unrelenting rage and an urge for revenge. How can this possibly improve public safety?" said Petzel.




TEACHING ON MATINICUS - I arrived sometime the last week of August for my teaching job at the Matinicus school. If you don’t think you can shiver in August, you haven’t been on a slow boat in the middle of Penobscot Bay. Why Matinicus? Actually, I thought I was headed for Alaska. I’d been seriously looking for a one-room school job, but I thought the little schools on islands off the coast of Maine were taught by long-term, career natives; I had no idea about the teacher turnover that was so common, especially on Matinicus, where they don’t offer a tenured position (perhaps too much potential for cracking up over the winter). . . .



VILLAGE SOUP - A colonoscopy costs $1,730 for an uninsured patient having the procedure done at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport.
The same patient would pay as little as $1,130 for a colonoscopy at Mercy Hospital in Portland or as much as $4,895 at the Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

These are among the findings of a cost comparison provided by the Maine Health Data Organization. The organization was created by the Legislature in 1996 to make clinical and financial health care information available to the public.

For colonoscopies, the statewide average charge was $1,974. Penobscot Bay Medical Center's median charge for the procedure was less than that at $1,730. At Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, the median charge was $1,557 while at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta the median charge was $2,970 -- the third highest charge in Maine. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, the charge was $1,326, the second lowest in Maine.

For a mammogram, the statewide average charge was $221 for an uninsured person. At Pen Bay Women's Imaging in Rockport, the median charge was $167. The median charge at Waldo County General Hospital was $192. The median charge at Miles Memorial Hospital was $232.

The median charge for a tonsillectomy in Maine hospitals was $4,663. At Penobscot Bay Medical Center, that price for an uninsured patient was $5,630. At Waldo County General Hospital, the cost was $5,721


DOWN EAST - The Maine Department of Marine Resources reports that 75.6 million pounds of lobster was caught in 2009. According to the Bangor Daily News, the lobster landings in Maine in 2009 amounted to 75.6 million pounds, somewhere in the realm of 5.7 million pounds higher than in 2008. Previously the biggest year on record for lobster was 2006, in which 75.3 million pounds of lobster was brought ashore. Prices, however, were down from previous years.



MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING - Popham Beach, near Bath, is one of Maine's most popular state parks, visited by an estimated 175,000 people every year. In recent years though, there's been increasingly less beach to visit, especially where the Morse River flows into the ocean. Since 2007, the sea has advanced more than 200 feet in parts. . . State authorities are also concerned by the ocean's rapid advance. A recently-constructed bathhouse -- part of a $1.4 million development -- is getting within feet of the water's edge. And in an effort to prevent it from getting any closer, conservationists have placed bundles of dead trees along the water's edge. State Geologist Robert Marvinney says when the bathhouse project was begun less than three years ago, the site of the building was four times as far away from the water's edge as it is now.

WGME - At a news conference in Augusta , a group of religious leaders from all over the state and the nation gathered to speak out in support of a bill currently up for debate in the legislature. It's titled "An act to ensure humane treatment of special management unit prisoners". If it passes, it would limit the amount of time prisoners can be placed in solitary confinement and keep mentally ill prisoners out of it entirely. The group says putting prisoners in solitary is inhumane. They say that segregation used in Maine prisons amounts to torture, and it needs to be stopped.

SUN JOURNAL - Bill Murray's math lesson of the day revolved around a bag of trash. His third-graders at Sherwood Heights Elementary School in Auburn started with an 18-pound bag of trash that the school custodian pitched aside. Armed with rubber gloves, the kids took out all the paper, plastic, anything that could be composted and anything that the class could reuse. "We took out all kinds of stuff that does not belong in the landfill," said Murray, a 1980 graduate of Edward Little High School. What was put back into the garbage bag weighed less than a pound. Many of Murray's lessons, regardless of subject, have a reduce, reuse, recycle spin. "It's an overall theme," said Murray, a first-year teacher at the school. "There is not anyone in this classroom that is not engaged," he said. . .

STRANGE MAINE - The Washington County railroad has gone all the other railroads in the country one better in the matter of accommodating its patrons. A passenger one day last week lost a set of false teeth out of the window. The loss was reported to the obliging conductor, who stopped the train, backed to the scene of catastrophe, where the missing molars were found and returned to their owner. - Kennebec Journal, April 10, 1908

PORTLAND DAILY SUN - Maine syrup makers produced 395,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2009, in what was considered a banner year, particularly for northern producers. Last year's output marked an increase of 65 percent over 2008 production of 240,000 gallons, which was considered a down year due to erratic weather; lingering winter cold slowed sap flow, and deep snow made it difficult for producers to get into the woods, producers noted. . . This year is stacking up as another potentially strong year like 2009. . . . "The weather has been perfect," said Kathy Hopkins, Extension educator with University of Maine. "When the nights are 20 or so and the day warms up to 40 or so, that's just perfect weather to stimulate sap flow."

MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING - A committee of lawmakers has reached a compromise that will allow a controversial police surveillance scanner to remain in use, under certain safeguards. . . The amendments include a provision to only store data on non-offenders collected by the camera for 21 days -- South Portland police currently keep the data for 30 days before purging it. There's also a provision. . . to ensure that this data is kept confidential. But most importantly, . . . there's an amendment to establish a working group to monitor the use of the ALPR. This group will include both law enforcement officials and civil liberties advocates who are concerned with privacy constitutional issues. . . . The MCLU says it is satisfied with the compromise, even though it falls short of the complete ban it had originally sought



MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING - A large bloom of toxic "red tide" is likely in the Gulf of Maine this spring, posing a potential threat to New England's shellfish industry. That's according to federal scientists who have been surveying the region's seafloor for signs of the Alexandrium fundyense, an organism that causes the toxic algal blooms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey found that the number of seed-like cysts of the organism was 60 percent higher than the level observed before the historic bloom of 2005, indicting a large bloom this spring.

While exposure to red tide in the water doesn't directly threaten humans, people can be sickened -- sometimes fatally -- by eating clams, mussels and other filter-feeding organisms contaminated with Alexandrium fundyense. In Maine, shellfish beds are monitored by the state, and closed when toxin concentrations rise above certain levels.

In 2005, a massive red tide bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha's Vineyard for several months, resulting in millions in losses to the region's shellfish industry.