An Interagency Approach to Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxic events (severe oxygen depletion) are some of the most scientifically complex and economically damaging coastal issues challenging our ability to safeguard the health of our nation’s coastal ecosystems. Almost every state in the U.S. now experiences some kind of HAB event and the number of hypoxic water bodies in the U.S. has increased 30 fold since the 1960s with over 300 coastal systems now impacted. A 2006 study shows that the economic impacts from a subset of HAB events in U.S. marine waters averaged to be $82 million annually (2005 dollars). However, just one major HAB event can cost local coastal economies tens of millions of dollars, indicating that the nationwide economic impact of HABs is likely much larger.
The Interagency Working Group
NOAA co-chairs the IWG-HABHRCA with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and and serves as the executive secretary. Other member agencies include:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- National Park Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- U.S. Coast Guard
- U.S. Navy
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
- White House Council on Environmental Quality
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
In 1998, Congress recognized the severity of HABs and hypoxia threats and authorized the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA 1998; embedded in Public Law 105-383). The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2004 (HABHRCA 2004, Public Law 108–456) and 2014 (HABHRCA 2014, Public Law 113–124) reaffirmed and expanded the mandate for NOAA to advance the scientific understanding and ability to detect, monitor, assess, and predict HAB and hypoxia events. Congress most recently reauthorized HABHRCA through the National Integrated Drought Information System (HABHRCA 2017, Public Law 115-423).
In addition, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act of 2021 ( Public Law 117-144) amended HABHRCA and tasked the IWG-HABHRCA with carrying out an interim and full-integrated assessment of HABs and hypoxia in the South Florida Water Management District and its associated freshwater, estuarine, and marine geographies. A subsequent action plan and biennial progress reports are also required through this legislation.
Find the current HABHRCA legislation and historic amendments by visiting 33 U.S.C. 53: HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM AND HYPOXIA RESEARCH AND CONTROL.
HABHRCA 1998 and 2004 authorized funding for intramural research and for competitive research programs on HABs and hypoxia.
Interagency Working Group Reports
HABHRCA 2014 – Required
- HABs and Hypoxia Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy (2016)
- HABs and Hypoxia Great Lakes Research Plan and Action Strategy (2017)
- HABs and Hypoxia in the United States: An Interagency Progress and Implementation Report (2018)
- HABs and Hypoxia in the Great Lakes: An Interagency Progress and Implementation Report (2020)
- Progress Report on Northern Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia
HABHRCA 2004 – Submitted to Congress
- National Assessment of Efforts to Predict and Respond to Harmful Algal Blooms in U.S. Waters, 2007
- Scientific Assessment of Marine Harmful Algal Blooms, 2008
- Scientific Assessment of Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms, 2008
Based on Proceedings of the Interagency, International Symposium on Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (ISOC-HAB): State of the Science and Research Needs, also available as Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science and Research Needs
- Harmful Algal Bloom Management and Response: Assessment and Plan, 2008
Based on Research, Development, Demonstration, and Technology Transfer National Workshop Report: A Plan for Reducing HABs and HAB Impacts
- Scientific Assessment of Hypoxia in US Coastal Waters, 2010
HABHRCA 1998 – Submitted to Congress
- National Assessment of Harmful Algal Blooms in U.S. Waters, 2000
- An Integrated Assessment of Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, 2000
- Action Plan for Reducing, Mitigating, and Controlling Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, 2001
- An Assessment of Coastal Hypoxia and Eutrophication in U.S. Waters, 2003
Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force
The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Hypoxia Task Force was established in the fall of 1997 to understand the causes and effects of eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico; coordinate activities to reduce the size, severity, and duration; and ameliorate the effects of hypoxia. Activities include coordinating and supporting nutrient management activities from all sources, restoring habitats to trap and assimilate nutrients, and supporting other hypoxia related activities in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.
The Task Force includes federal and state agencies and the tribes. Federal agencies include those with responsibilities over activities in the Mississippi River and its basin, and in the Gulf of Mexico. The role of the Task Force is to provide executive level direction and support for coordinating the actions of participating organizations working on nutrient management within the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed. The Task Force has designated members of a Coordinating Committee and solicits information from interested stakeholders.
Extramural Funding Programs
There are a number of extramural funding programs available through member agencies in the IWG-HABHRCA that pertain to HABs and hypoxia. Please visit the links below for more information on these programs, including timing, focal areas, and how to apply.
- NCCOS Funding Opportunities
- Individual competitive HABHRCA programs:
- Office for Coastal Management’s Competitive Grant Announcements
- EPA Research Grants
- Funding Sources for Managing Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms and Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Science Foundation