Harmful Algal Blooms Now Lurk in All Costal Waters

September 26, 2007

Harmful algal blooms are increasing and now occur offshore of every coastal state and in some inland waters, according to a report released Sept. 12, 2007, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science and Technology Council.

The report contains extensive biological, technological, and policy information that can provide helpful context and background if you are reporting on these blooms, which can cause serious human health problems and environmental damage.

The report is the first of five required by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Amendments Act of 2004. A report on a coordinated strategy for improving harmful algal bloom prevention, control, and mitigation is due at the end of 2007. At least 25 states have their own programs to respond to harmful algal blooms, which the report estimates cause economic damage of at least $82 million each year.

Much about the blooms remains unknown, although there is substantial evidence that some of the problem is caused by runoff of nutrients from farms and lawns, and deposition of airborne substances such as nitrogen, that unnaturally accelerate the growth of the organisms.

Fledgling efforts to predict the occurrence of blooms, which tend to occur from midsummer to early winter, now cover the Texas and west Florida coasts. Other areas are expected to be covered in the future, and see TipSheet of Oct. 13, 2004.

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