Olympic region harmful algal blooms
The ORHAB Partnership was conceived in June 1999 by local residents and coastal communities in response to seemingly random closures of shellfish harvest due to outbreaks of marine biotoxins including paralytic shellfish toxins and domoic acid. Local resource managers and other partners joined with ocean scientists to protect public health on the Washington coast by establishing a comprehensive monitoring and research program to better understand the underlying dynamics of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These research efforts, originally funded by NOAA, have been underway since the summer of 2000 with funding from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, transitioned to State funding starting in 2003 through a surcharge to State shellfish licenses. Tribal governments support their own internal monitoring programs and work cooperatively with state and academic ORHAB partners.
ORHAB shares knowledge with local communities on the Olympic Peninsula of the Washington State coast, empowering tribal and state managers to make scientifically-based decisions about managing and mitigating harmful algal bloom (HAB) impacts on coastal fishery resources.
Sharing a common need to better understand the underlying dynamics of these disruptive events, a regional partnership was formed of tribal and non-tribal community leaders, businesses, and state and federal resource managers and researchers. Together they joined to form ORHAB- a regional forum to collaboratively seek answers.
To date, ORHAB project has prevented commercial product recalls, limited the occurrences of recreationally-harvested clams that must be destroyed, and lessened the impact from the loss of tourism dollars to local economies associated with short-notice recreational harvest closures and public notice of toxic events. This collaboration offers a model for reducing overall costs of HAB monitoring by taking advantage of the resources of our many partners. The formation of working relationships among the region’s agencies leads to better communication, collaboration and supporting monitoring costs with local funding.
Benefits to Managers
Because the ORHAB project provides weekly phytoplankton levels at several beach locations, the Washington State Dept of Health (WDOH) has allowed the Dept of Fish and Wildlife and tribal managers to reduce the number of razor clam samples to be tested prior to beach opening for harvest. This results in reduced cost and faster analysis. Prior to ORHAB, four days was needed to test clams for toxins and to post results. Now, because of WDFW’s and tribe’s strong collaboration with other partners, results are posted in only two days.