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Seasonal and weekly algal bloom forecasts will be issued regularly. (Photo: P.Franks, SIO/WHOI.edu/FIS)

Research grants worth USD 1.7 mln will boost warnings for algal blooms

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Friday, October 21, 2011, 00:30 (GMT + 9)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research grants totalling USD 1,665,056 announced this week will lead to the implementation of seasonal and weekly toxic algal bloom forecasts improving accuracy and providing better early warnings for harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Maine.

State and local shellfish managers and the shellfish industry use these warnings to prepare for severe seasons, protect human health, and minimize economic losses.

“While we have made great strides in bloom prediction and monitoring, it is clear that these problems are continuing to increase in magnitude and demand our ongoing commitment and attention. This vital support will benefit Maine's dedicated fishermen by enhancing resources needed to prepare for red tides,” said Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.

"Maine’s shellfish industry has experienced severe economic losses due to red tide over the years," Snowe continued. "In 2009, the resulting closure of 97 percent of the state’s shellfish beds and 100 percent of the offshore beds in federal waters for several months during the peak harvesting season proves that we in Congress must do all we can to provide the necessary resources to ensure our hardworking harvesters are able to safely access this important fishery."

"I recently introduced the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act (HABHRCA) of 2011, which will also support preparatory resources by enhancing our nation’s ability to predict, monitor, and ultimately control harmful algal blooms and hypoxia."

Scientists researching toxic algal blooms in the Gulf received the funding for the first year of two multi-year projects through two national peer-reviewed competitions run by NOAA’s National Centres for Coastal Ocean Science: the Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms (PCMHAB) and Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) programmes. PCMHAB and MERHAB are authorized by HABHRCA.

Harmful algal blooms caused by the algal species Alexandrium can lead to serious illnesses such as paralytic shellfish poisoning in people who consume poisoned shellfish.

The PCMHAB project, a four year effort, will advance seasonal and weekly bloom forecast models and transfer them to NOAA, which will issue the forecasts regularly like weather forecasts. The MERHAB project will deploy state of the art sensors for Alexandrium cells and toxins in the Gulf of Maine over five years to improve the accuracy of HAB predictions and provide better early warning.

Research on both projects will be carried out at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with research partners at North Carolina State University, the University of Maine, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. More than 40 per cent of the funding directly supports high quality university and private sector jobs for people working to protect New England fisheries from these devastating blooms.

Funding will also open new markets for ocean observing technologies manufactured in Massachusetts.

Related article:

-
'Dead mud' threatens Maine's shellfish sector 

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