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Red Tide Workshop & Public Forum Highlight Scientific History of Red Tide

State of the Research on Red Tide in the Gulf of Mexico Workshop Assessed Progress of Research and Identified Future Research Needs

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science/Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) jointly sponsored a scientific workshop with Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, bringing together 75 national and international experts on Florida red tide and receiving significant press coverage. It summarized and synthesized existing research on K. brevis in the following areas: cellular and molecular biology, physiology and ecology, coastal ocean circulation, observation systems, and models; polyether brevetoxins, toxins in the food web and impacts, monitoring, mitigation, and management, prevention and control, and community effects and outreach.

Plenary speakers described how the development of new tools, such as new methods for detecting K. brevis cells and toxins and improved models, have greatly enhanced managers’ ability to monitor and predict red tides and their impacts. For example the NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Bulletin provides managers with twice weekly forecasts of bloom occurrence and transport. K. brevis was also described as remarkably complex and adaptable for a single celled organism. Its ability to form huge blooms is only partially understood, but is key to predicting and preventing blooms. Presentations highlighted the progress that has been made in the last few years in understanding how the toxins impact human health, and a wide variety of organisms in the marine environment, leading to improved mitigation of impacts. Current shellfish monitoring is extraordinarily effective, as there have been no cases of Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) due to shellfish from legally harvested areas. Efforts to control K. brevis blooms dating back to the 1950’s were also described. Recent results with clay flocculation and algicidal bacteria are promising, but substantial regulatory hurdles exist that require better understanding of the environmental impact.

In ten hours of discussion, scientists identified research gaps, and formulated future research priorities. The priorities included: determining the role of all nutrient sources, especially land-based nutrients in stimulating blooms; identifying the factors causing blooms to begin, continue, and end; understanding the three dimensional movement of ocean currents that transport blooms from offshore to nearshore; developing and testing environmentally-acceptable methods of bloom control; improving monitoring and prediction; assessing the public health, socioeconomic impacts and ecosystems impacts of blooms; and developing better public education and outreach to minimize impacts.

The four day workshop, held on July 17-20, 2006, at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida will generate a technical report, describing the needs for future research, and a special issue of the scientific journal, Harmful Algae, featuring articles by the plenary speakers:

  • Dr. Fran VanDolah, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
  • Dr. Gabriel Vargo, University of South Florida
  • Dr. Robert Weisberg, University of South Florida
  • Dr. John Walsh, University of South Florida
  • Dr Daniel Baden, University of North Carolina

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