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Goal | Strategy | Accomplishments

ORHAB aims to build local self-sufficiency in mitigating impacts of harmful algal blooms by providing improved tools for protecting public health, building consumer confidence in fishery products, and enhancing revenues for coastal communities in the Olympic region on the Washington State coast.

What is ORHAB?

The Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) partnership was organized to develop collaboration and cooperation among federal, state and local management agencies, coastal Indian tribes, marine resource-based businesses, public interest groups, and academic institutions. The ORHAB partnership investigates the origins of blooms of toxic algae, monitors where and when the blooms occur, assesses the environmental conditions conducive to blooms and toxification of intertidal shellfish populations, and explores methods that can be used to reduce HAB impacts on humans and the environment.

Goal:

The goal of ORHAB is to develop a cost-effective monitoring program for HABs that will be taken over by state managers and tribes at the end of five years (2000-2005). Currently, ORHAB is focused on monitoring the toxic organism Pseudo-nitzschia and the toxin, domoic acid, produced by some Pseudo-nitzschia species. Domoic acid causes neurological damage and fatalities in humans, marine mammals and seabirds.

Objectives:

  • To understand the environmental conditions that initiate and maintain blooms of harmful species.
  • To develop a sampling program and models for the prediction and mitigation of HABs.
  • To develop, test, and implement new technologies.

Strategy:

By bringing together teams of experts from federal, state, tribes, and academic institutions, ORHAB seeks to develop tools needed to manage risks associated with HABs. This partnering will establish close working relationships between these groups and insure confidence in the resulting monitoring program.

Accomplishments:

ORHAB has been in existence only since the summer of 2000, but it has already enhanced our understanding of the processes that govern the timing and spatial distributions of Pseudo-nitzschia cells and their transport to coastal shellfish.

To date, ORHAB has prevented commercial product recalls, avoiding the occurrences of recreationally-harvested clams that must be destroyed, and lessening the impact from the loss of tourism dollars to local economies which are associated with short-notice recreational harvest closures and public notice of toxic events. It is clear that this collaboration offers a way to reduce the 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 play a decisive role in achieving the project's ultimate goal: a commitment to carry on the monitoring effort into the future without reliance on federal support.

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