19.04.2009 -

‘Harmful Algal Bloom’ (HAB)

Ninth Session of the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (22 – 24 April 2009)

The overall goal of the IOC HAB Programme:

To foster the effective management of, and scientific research on, harmful algal blooms in order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences, and mitigate their effects

What are Harmful Algae?

Phytoplankton blooms, micro-algal blooms, toxic algae, red tides, or harmful algae, are all terms for naturally occurring phenomena. About 300 hundred species of micro algae are reported at times to form mass occurrence, so called blooms Nearly one fourth of these species are known to produce toxins. The scientific community refers to these events with a generic term, ‘Harmful Algal Bloom’ (HAB), recognising that, because a wide range of organisms is involved and some species have toxic effects at low cell densities, not all HABs are ‘algal’ and not all occur as ‘blooms’.

Why are they harmful?

Proliferations of microalgae in marine or brackish waters can cause massive fish kills, contaminate seafood with toxins, and alter ecosystems in ways that humans perceive as harmful. A broad classification of HABs distinguishes two groups of organisms: the toxin producers, which can contaminate seafood or kill fish, and the high-biomass producers, which can cause anoxia and indiscriminate kills of marine life after reaching dense concentrations. Some HABs have characteristics of both.

Toxic effects on humans:

Particularly in the tropics people are often harassed by diseases and syndroms due to consumption of seafood contaminated by algal toxins. Some of these diseases may be fatal. There is currently no international record of the number of incidents of human intoxication caused by contaminated seafood. The numbers appearing in presentations at international meetings are undoubtedly underestimates, as many cases and even fatalities can be assumed to pass undiagnosed and hence unreported in the official reports.

See a Doctor if you or your children get sick after eating seafood or swimming

To give the doctor the best background for finding out why you are sick it is adviseable to bring a sample of the seafood, or the water in which you swam.  

Ninth Session of the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (22 – 24 April 2009)

The role of IPHAB is to improve the managerial, scientific and financial resources available for implementation of a global HAB Programme. The aim is to facilitate the international community to continue to implement activities addressing capacity building, international cooperative research, and communication networks.

The composition of the IPHAB:

"The membership of the IPHAB is open to Member States of IOC which have declared to the Secretary IOC their involvement or intention to participate in the development and implementation of the HAB Programme on a global, regional, or national scale. The Panel shall include representatives of IOC Regional or other subsidiary bodies, and other interested international organizations particularly SCOR. Invitations to participate in the IPHAB activities may be extended to scientific experts at the request of the Panel and with the approval of Secretary IOC."

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