Harmful Algal Blooms

ABCs of HABs

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a worldwide phenomenon posing a significant threat to public health, economies, water quality, and fisheries. Increasingly, the phrase is repeated in the media as HABs have increased in frequency, duration, and distribution in recent decades.

HABs come in a rainbow of colors, but at the end of this rainbow there’s no pot of gold. In fact, it’s just the opposite and New York waters have more than their fair share.

During the 1950s there were green tide blooms in Long Island’s (LI) south shore bays that negatively impacted the oyster fishery. In the mid-1980s, brown tides occurred in LI’s south shore and east end bays, destroying eelgrass beds, scallop fisheries and hard clam fisheries. Since 2002, toxin-producing red tide blooms have caused shellfishery closures on LI Sound bays. For decades, the toxins in cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) have negatively impacted drinking water in New York’s Great Lakes region and even fresh water ponds on Long Island.
What’s the difference among these harmful blooms? What should you know about the harm they can cause?

Follow the links for more on harmful algal blooms and the work of New York Sea Grant (NYSG) researchers and extension specialists.

HABs and Dogs

HABs, especially in the New York State's fresh water, are overgrowths of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that cause water quality problems in lakes and ponds, including the occasional production of potent toxins. Of the 8,000 or so species of cyanobacteria, only about 40 produce toxins. However, these toxins can poison people, household pets, waterfowl and livestock. Because HABs are increasing in many areas, the number of dog poisonings from cyanobacterial toxins is also on the rise.

Starting in 2014, NYSG and New York State Parks partnered to educate dog owners this summer by providing copies of the Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms fact sheet and brochure (pdf) developed by New York Sea Grant at several State Parks.

For more, check out our related news on this topic.

The most recent news item on this topic "In Media, On YouTube: Protect Your Dog From Harmful Algal Blooms," is from September 2019.

HABs Planning and Reporting

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation encourages the public to view its "Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Notifications Page," which includes important things to know about HABs as well as tips on what to do when blooms are encountered.

This builds on recent efforts between the two, highlighted most recently in Starting in 2018, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) partnered with Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) on a HABs effort, which was most recently documented in March 2019's "Sea Grant Leads Suffolk County Effort for HAB Mitigation Planning."

In 2020, NYSG and SCDHS continued this partnership by facilitating a public reporting tool for marine HABs.

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