In June 2011, a House of Representatives subcommittee on energy and environment unveiled a bill to reauthorize research on hypoxic 'dead zones' and harmful algal blooms (HABs). During a hearing on the legislation, lawmakers listened to officials from NOAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, experts on the Chesapeake Bay, and a scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Each panelist provided perspectives on the harm HABs and hypoxia cause to coastal communities, NOAA's accomplishments to date, and the time and cost involved in carrying out the law. The issue is of particular concern for Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD), because harmful algal blooms and hypoxia both affect the Chesapeake Bay and his district includes Maryland's Eastern Shore.
An algal bloom or red tide event can shut down shellfish fisheries and close beaches. Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia cost the U.S. seafood and tourism industries approximately $82 million per year, according to NOAA. Scientists have also predicted that the Gulf of Mexico may have its largest-ever "dead zone" this year, due to a polluted wash from the swollen Mississippi River.