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October 11, 2006

Contact: Ben Sherman, NOAA Public Affairs
(301) 713-3066 ext. 178


NOAA Awards Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission $4.7 million
Over Five Years to Study the Role of Nutrients in State Red Tide Events

NOAA has awarded $813,998 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for the first year of funding of a $4.7 million, five-year grant to examine the underlying causes of the red tide blooms along Florida's Gulf Coast.

The grant, from the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) program, managed by NOAA Ocean Service's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research,  will support research, conducted by a multidisciplinary team of scientists led by the institute. The team will seek to better understand the causes of red tide (K. brevis) along Florida’s Gulf Coast, especially how and what types of nutrients fuel the blooms.

"A better understanding of the underlying causes of K. brevis blooms is essential for predicting when blooms will occur and evaluating what prevention options may be available to coastal managers," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "NOAA's partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute will help provide a more thorough understanding than is currently available."

At a July 2006 NOAA-supported red tide workshop held in Sarasota, Fla., national and international red tide experts agreed that not enough is known about the nutrient sources that support growth of the red tide organism in the Gulf. Public input to this workshop also provided strong support for the need to understand the relationship between nutrients and these blooms. The new research, which will combine biological, chemical, and physical measurements with predictive modeling efforts, seeks to address a critical knowledge gap using both experimental and modeling approaches, as well as retrospective data analysis. Investigators also will seek to identify alternatives for coastal managers.

The red tide organism blooms in Florida almost annually, leading to severe economic and environmental impacts. Annual economic impacts in Florida from the blooms have been estimated to be at least $15 million to $25 million. The red tide is currently affecting shore areas from Pinellas to northern Collier County. Last year, an unusually large and persistent bloom occurred, lasting from January 2005 to February 2006. K. brevis produces neurotoxins that can kill marine mammals, fish, and other marine creatures, cause shellfish to be unfit for human consumption, and sicken humans with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma.

NOAA supports research to understand how, when, and why blooms occur through its Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algae Blooms program in order to develop better methods of detecting and predicting blooms, and to find ways to reduce or prevent impacts on humans, coastal economies, and ecosystems.

In fiscal year 2006, the NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research provided approximately $10 million in competitive grants to institutions of higher education, state, local, and tribal governments, and other non-profit research institutions to advance the understanding of major national coastal management issues, including harmful algal blooms. NOAA-sponsored competitive research programs, such as ECOHAB, demonstrate NOAA's commitment to its historic responsibilities of science and service to the nation for the past 35 years.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems, NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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