NOAA Project to Protect Coastal Oregon Communities from Algal Blooms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded $456,630 as part of a five-year, $2.3 million project to develop integrated harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring and event response programs, officials announced on Oct. 10.

These programs will strive to minimize the impact of HAB events on coastal Oregon communities. Funds were awarded to Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) through NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

"Harmful algal blooms can have a devastating effect on unique coastal ecosystems like those along the Oregon coast," said John H. Dunnigan, NOAA's assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. "This effort will reduce the public health threat of toxic algal blooms and further NOAA efforts to understand and predict harmful algal bloom events along the Pacific coast."

NOAA and its Oregon partners will research the ecological mechanisms and oceanographic conditions that lead to blooms of toxic algae and determine the role of upwelling and transport in the population dynamics of HAB species in Oregon coastal waters. This research will provide better information on toxin-producing algae to help predict future blooms and enhance shellfish monitoring programs jointly conducted by ODFW and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The team will enhance the Oregon HAB monitoring and response systems by integrating oceanographic data gathered from remote sensing, ship-based field sampling, radar derived current data and data from autonomous underwater vehicles with data generated by ongoing plankton and shellfish monitoring programs. This research will lead to a streamlined ecosystem-based HAB monitoring and event response program for Oregon.

Toxic algal blooms have had a significant impact on Oregon coastal communities and their economy for decades. In 2003, ODFW estimated that the cost of a domoic acid (HAB toxin) related closure of the razor clam fishery at Clatsop Beach, Ore., cost the local communities $4.8 million.

The NOAA National Ocean Service is addressing the national HAB threat by developing regional harmful algal bloom observation technology and forecasting systems, like this Oregon coast effort. Similar efforts in Florida and Texas have lead to a HAB bulletin, which updates managers on the potential effects and distribution of a HAB event.

The MERHAB program seeks to partner researchers from universities and NOAA with representatives of state and local agencies responsible for the HABS monitoring programs in their regions.

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