In October NOAA announced $18.9 million in funding for harmful algal bloom (HAB) research projects and monitoring activities throughout U.S. coastal and Great Lakes waters.
NOAA states “Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS) occur when colonies of algae — simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater — grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.” 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.
The HABS not only effect all coastal areas but also the Great Lakes states.
There are many kinds of HABs, caused by a variety of algal groups with different toxins. The Florida red tide is a specific type of Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB). It is caused by a dinoflagellate or microscopic algae, Karenia brevis (K. brevis). K. brevis can kill large numbers of fish and other sea life including dolphins and manatees and it can make shellfish poisonous to humans. It produces airborne toxins that can cause watery eyes and respiratory irritation. Contact with red tide can cause skin irritation. Waters affected by red tide can be several different colors, but not all discolored water is a red tide. There are a variety of nutrient sources that can sustain a red tide bloom from natural sources like dead fish and other decaying sea life to man-made sources like air pollution and runoff from streets and lawns into our streams and rivers.
“Harmful algal blooms and ocean acidification are two issues that impact coastal resources and we need to understand how they interact,” said David Kidwell, director of NOAA’s NCCOS Competitive Research Program. “In addition to better detection methods, we want to continue the development of technologies for controlling HABs, and enhance and improve our forecasting and monitoring abilities. These grants will help with those goals.”
START is very supportive of this award. As many of you know our mission statement is “working to reduce excess nutrients in our waterways that feed red tide”.
Photo courtesy of the USGS Environmental Health Program