Shown in this satellite image is ocean color data revealing high concentrations of chlorophyll over a large area (in red), warning scientists of potential HAB activity off the Florida Gulf Coast. Water samples are used to provide data on the algal species to confirm the presence of harmful algae.
Harmful Algal Blooms are considered an environmental hazard because these events can make people sick when contaminated shellfish are eaten, or when people breathe aerosolized HAB toxins near the beach. In addition, HAB events can result in the closure of shellfish beds, massive fish kills, death of marine mammals and seabirds, and alteration of marine habitats. As a consequence, HAB events adversely affect commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and valued habitats, creating a significant impact on local economies and the livelihood of coastal residents.
Advanced warning of harmful algal blooms (HABs) increases the options for managing these events. The HAB Forecasting System provided by NOAA, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Institute, supplies information on the location, extent, and potential for development or movement of harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. The forecasting system relies on satellite imagery, field observations, and buoy data to provide the large spatial scale and high frequency of observations required to assess bloom location and movements. Historical and near-realtime data can be accessed through the Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System (HABSOS).
Extensive information about HABs can be found on NOAA's National Ocean Service - Harmful Algal Bloom Web site.