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Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2004

Government Category - 3rd Place

Project #: GG-04-35
Company: Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System Partnership
NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center
Stennis Space Center, MS
and Institute for Marine Remote Sensing, College of Marine Science/University of South Florida
St. Petersburg, Florida
Project Name: Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System (HABSOS)
Category: Government
Project Type: Public Health, Habitat

The Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System (HABSOS) is an ongoing multi-agency initiative, begun in 2001, to develop an Internet-based communication system for collecting, processing and disseminating HAB and relevant environmental data and information within the Gulf of Mexico. HABSOS seeks to provide a forum to better understand the common dynamics and consequences of HAB events, and to assist state event response and management decision-making, including first alert, event validation, oyster bed and beach closure decisions, and public notification and interaction. Most recently, the Mexican Gulf States have joined HABSOS, resulting in a true international collaboration to monitor HAB dynamics without regard to political boundaries.

The increasing frequency and negative impact of HABs on coastal communities have spurred interest in the development of a timely and effective HAB monitoring and forecast system for state resource managers and researchers. Addressing this issue in the Gulf of Mexico, HABSOS involves over 30 federal, state, and academic organizations, nearly all actively participating on a voluntary basis. Development of HABSOS is truly user-mandated and user-driven. In fact, HABSOS was initiated in 2001, in response to user requirements developed by Gulf State resource managers during a Pensacola workshop in 2000. From a national perspective, HABSOS is clearly demonstrating that collective use of existing and near real-time data and information will lead to enhanced environmental stewardship and better management decision-making within the Gulf of Mexico region.

The overall HABSOS project was initiated in 2001 by the HABSOS Case Study, a retrospective analysis of environmental conditions in 1996 (abundant blooms Gulfwide), 1997 (minimal blooms) and 2000 (selected because of the availability of ocean-color imagery). The Case Study working group consisted of a dozen or so academic experts and state managers from all the U.S. Gulf States who provided data and in-kind services. The HABSOS Case Study has resulted in considerable progress and has resolved or is addressing a number of challenges associated with data assimilation and integration of HAB information throughout the Gulf of Mexico. For example, the HABSOS Case Study:

The technical scope of HABSOS is increasing with the ongoing development of the HABSOS Near-Real Time application, considered by many to be the Gulf of Mexico component to the national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Politically, HABSOS is expanding internationally and has begun incorporating data collection efforts from Mexico’s Gulf States. To facilitate the collaboration, the Gulf of Mexico Program and NOAA’s NCDDC (HABSOS), in cooperation with the Co-Chairs of the Gulf of Mexico States Accord's Health, Ecology and the Environment Subcommittee, hosted the first Binational Collaboration Workshop of Red Tide Programs in New Orleans, June 10-11, 2003. A total of 65 technical and managerial experts from the United States and Mexico attended.

The workshop resulted in development of the Binational Plan for the Attention of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the workshop resulted in a unanimous agreement and commitment to jointly pursue the implementation of four specific elements of the plan that will unify and enhance the red tide technical program management capacity of the eleven Binational states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Plan elements involve: (1) integrating and standardizing sampling methods and protocols; (2) establishing a first-level coastal observing system infrastructure; (3) extending NOAA's near real time remote sensing capacity for detecting and analyzing the movement of red tide blooms to Mexico; and, (4) establishing the basic information technology capacity to integrate these observational tools into the eleven States red tide event response programs. Most recently, the Binational Plan was nominated by the Executive Committee of the Gulf of Mexico State Accord for the "Good Partner" Award being given by the US-Mexico "Partnership for Prosperity" initiative. The award was created last June as a way to honor major bilateral initiatives between Mexican and US government officials, academic institutions and the business community.

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Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
FAX: 228-688-2709

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