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Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms

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NOAA Funding to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms

November 18, 2011

A NOAA-funded project to provide early warning of harmful algal blooms will help protect the safety of local New York shellfish and enable New York to safeguard its $19 million-a-year commercial shellfish industry.

Algae are small, simple plants that can spell big trouble when they produce damaging toxins or are present in excessive quantities. To combat these harmful algal blooms, or HABs, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science recently announced funding for several projects that will make strides in protecting public health, jobs, and coastal economies.

Early warning detection methods for toxic Alexandrium blooms in the Gulf of Maine. NOAA has awarded funding to scientists at the University of Maine to develop early detection methods for Alexandrium toxins, which can lead to the potentially fatal human illness of paralytic shellfish poisoning. Early toxin detection will help keep seafood safe and reduce economic impacts of blooms by allowing Maine officials to target closures of shellfish harvests, focusing only on impacted beds.

Advanced harmful algal bloom monitoring technologies and early warning methods in New York. NOAA will fund researchers at Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and their partners at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in developing technologies to monitor HAB cells, their toxins, and associated environmental conditions in all of New York’s marine waters.

A biofilter to remove algal toxins from the Great Lakes. NOAA has awarded funding to support research to develop an instrument, called a biofilter, to break harmful algal toxins in the Great Lakes down into harmless byproducts. The project, being conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, would focus on toxins produced by blue-green algae. These algae can cause serious illnesses in humans and animals, pose a significant risk to some water supplies, and result in significant economic losses.

Early warning detection of harmful algal bloom “hot spots” off southern and central California. NOAA is funding research being conducted in partnership with two U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System partners — the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System and the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System.The teams will combine the detection and monitoring of the toxic blooms with ocean models that can forecast ocean conditions, potentially leading to bloom predictions.


Funding for these projects was awarded through programs run by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science that were authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA) of 1998.  Last reauthorized in 2004, HABHRCA calls for advancement in the scientific understanding and the ability to detect, monitor, assess, and predict harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events.