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NOAA News Releases 2004
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration granted $400,000 to the University of California, Santa Cruz to fund research for a harmful algal bloom alert system. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The grant is from the Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms program, managed by NOAA Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Coastal Ocean Program. It will develop an integrated alert system to determine the best way to detect and respond to toxic algal blooms along the California coast. These blooms cause severe illness and even death in humans who consume tainted shellfish. Harmful algal blooms in this region routinely kill sea otters, sea lions and other marine animals, and threaten the economic livelihood of many California coastal communities.

This award initiates a planned five year, $2 Million dollar MERHAB effort that engages key academic and state agency partners in developing harmful algae detection and tracking tools at intensive study sites in Marin, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. UCSC and the California Department of Health Service, the state agency charged with ensuring seafood safety, are co-leading this effort to implement an economically sustainable harmful algal bloom monitoring plan for the California coastline that exceeds current CDHS capabilities.

“Harmful algal blooms can have a devastating effect on unique coastal ecosystems like our own Monterey Bay region. I am proud that our local resources like UCSC, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Moss Landing Laboratories have been chosen to collaborate on this program. The knowledge gained from the MERHAB effort will be critical to making informed decisions about how to deal with future algal bloom problems,” said Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif.

“A particular strength of this NOAA Coastal Ocean Program project is that it was jointly conceived and developed by state and academic researchers,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This MERHAB effort will reduce the public health threat of toxic algal blooms, further NOAA efforts to understand and predict harmful algal bloom events along the Central California Coast, and reinforces NOAA and the Bush Administration’s commitment to the environment.”

Project partners include the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and NOAA Fisheries Southeast. MERHAB funding leverages existing NOAA and local observation technology investments in moored buoy arrays, shipboard oceanographic studies and long-term environmental assessment.

The NOAA Ocean Service is addressing the national harmful algal bloom threat by developing regional harmful algal bloom observation technology and forecasting systems, like this Central California effort, in other affected coastal ecosystems.

"Detection of algal blooms that cause severe illness and possibly death in humans are one of the significant benefits from an integrated ocean observing system,” said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., assistant administrator of the NOAA Ocean Service, which sponsored the research. “NOAA Ocean Service and its partners in state government and academia are producing new methods to detect harmful algal blooms, automating the process, and implementing the technologies into monitoring programs. Through research, NOAA is finding out more about what triggers blooms and transports their toxins, and is using these new abilities in early warning systems to help coastal managers.”

NOAA Ocean Service’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research has awarded up to $30 million annually to academic, state, tribal and Federal partners to assist NOAA in the study of our coastal oceans. NOAA Ocean Service’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research programs provides decision makers with reliable and timely scientific information. These research programs are critical to the NOAA mission of predicting environmental change, managing ocean resources and protecting life and property. NOAA-sponsored competitive research programs like MERHAB demonstrate NOAA's commitment to these basic responsibilities of science and service to the nation.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. To learn more about NOAA, please visit

On the Web:

NOAA Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB):

NOAA Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB):

NOAA Marine Biotoxins Program: