Harmful Algal Blooms

Tiny Organisms with a Toxic Punch

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when algae — simple photosynthetic organisms that live in the sea and freshwater — grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. There are many kinds of HABs, caused by a variety of algal groups with different toxins. The HABs in fresh and marine waters are usually very different, but they overlap in low salinity estuaries (places where rivers meet the sea). The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal. States have rigorous monitoring programs to ensure that commercially harvested fish and shellfish are safe to eat. HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise. HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the "health" of local and regional economies.

Regional Information

Harmful Algal Bloom Resources

green blooms on shoreline
Lake Erie algal bloom