Global Harmful Algal Blooms

Regional/National Research includes activities relevant to the objectives of the GEOHAB Science Plan, but may have other overall objectives. Regional/National research is co-ordinated at a regional or national level rather than by the SSC. 

List of papers published based on GEOHAB endorsed reserch (download as End-note zip file)


PROJECT TITLE: Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Philippines (PhilHABs)

Planned duration of activity, from:  February 2009- January 2012

Contact:  Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza, Professor and Research Program Leader , The Marine Science Institute, College of Science, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines Telefax: +632 921 5967    E-mail:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Other key persons: Dr. Arturo O. Lluisma, Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz, Dr. Gil S. Jacinto, Dr. Fernando P. Siringan, Dr. Aletta T. Yñiguez, and Dr. Maria Lourdes San Diego-McGlone – The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman; Efren J. Sta. Maria – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (for project # 6 only). Otherresearchers: Dr. Laura T. David and Dr. Cesar L. Villanoy – The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, Dr. Elsie C. Jimenez – University of the Philippines Baguio, Dr. Alyssa Peleo Alampay and Dr. Carlos Primo David – National Institute of Geological Sciences.

Senior Research Assistants and Research Assitants: Deo Florence L. Onda, Angeline F. Moya, Arielle Kae L. Sulit, Jenelle Clarisse R. Dungca, Kamille Joshua V. Manset, Christopher O. Mendoza, Garry A. Benico, Karen Grace V. Bondoc,  Ma. Teresa L. Escobar, Lara Patricia A. Sotto, Joan M. Reotita, Rhodelyn C. Saban, Fermina Genson, Joseph Dominic H. Palermo, Irene D. Alabia, Aldwin T. Almo, Ian Quino Fernandez, Jay Mar D. Quevedo, Eileen Peñaflor, Peter Paulo L. Rivera, Iris S. Orizar – The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman Geleen Rica R. Javellana – National Institute of Geological Sciences Adelina dM. Bulos, Marilyn K. Castillo, Rhett Simon Tabbada, Aileen de Leon, Ryan Joseph Anlago, Annie Day D. C. Asa – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute  (for project # 6 only)


There has been a decrease or absence of reports of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) cases in some previously HAB affected areas (e.g. Manila Bay) in the Philippines in the recent years. However, the number of areas affected by toxic organisms other than those causing PSP has increased by about 20% according to the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.  Some areas are still experiencing the blooms of Pyrodinium bahamense var.compressum, a PSP causing organism aside from newly affected areas.  Sorsogon Province  was declared in a state of calamity after 129 PSP cases and 4 fatalities were reported in January 2007.  Cochlodinium red tide in 2005 – 2006, which caused fish kills and public panic along the western coast of Palawan, has also caused alarm.  The urea fertilization project in the Sulu Sea, which aims to induce algal blooms in order to reduce greenhouse gases, was another serious issue of concern because of the possibility that it could cause Harmful Algal Blooms.  In other countries, there has been an increase of scientific evidence to show that climate change and anthropogenic inputs into the coastal areas have contributed significantly to the expansion of HAB’s in time and space.  The urgency of developing and sustaining national and global  R&D programs on Harmful Algal Blooms ,therefore, need not be over emphasized. The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines through the support of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (DOST-PCAMRD) has an active research on HABs since 1998, but this has been previously focused onPyrodinium blooms particularly in Manila Bay. PHILHABs constitute the HAB research program in the Philippines and proposed to be implemented in three to six years (2009-2014). Results of which can be also useful inputs into the envisional Asian GEOHAB.  The main thrusts of the proposal are derived mainly from the scientific program of SCOR-UNESCO’s GEOHAB. The general objective of the PHILHABs program is to understand the critical factors and mechanisms underlying the population dynamics of HAB species in various oceanographic regimes particularly the Philippines. Results can be used as basis for monitoring and managing the occurrence, movement, toxicity and environmental effects of various types of HAB’s (in the Philippines). The program also intends to develop methods and technologies relevant to the monitoring and management of HABs in the country.

The eight project components of PHILHABs: Project #:

  1. Biodiversity/Genetic Diversity of Selected HAB-Forming Species in the Philippines
  2. Microbial Community (HAB Species and Associated Bacteria) Composition and Succession
  3. Toxinology and Toxicology of Philippine Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)/Species
  4. Fish Kills, Algal Blooms and Eutrophication in the Tropics
  5. Eutrophication, Climate and Algal Blooms in the Tropics (ECABIT)
  6. Historical Sedimentation Rate and Radiometric Fingerprinting of Suspended-Sediment in    selected HAB Areas  
  7. Stratification and Algal Blooms in the Tropics (SABIT)
  8. Harmful Algal Bloom Mitigation in the Tropics

FUNDING: Philippine Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development; the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City; and the International Atomic Energy Agency.   




PROJECT TITLE: Determination of adhesive strength, propagation mechanisms and methods of destruction of different life cycle stages of Alexandrium catenella

Planned duration of activity: January 2010 to June 2011.                                                                              

Contact: Gemita M. Pizarro, Dr. Associate Researcher, Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP),  Enrique Abello 0552, Punta Arenas, Chile, Tel/Fax:             +56-61-614740      /              +56-61-614741    , E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

Other key persons: Leonardo Guzmán (Dr. Senior researcher IFOP), Cristian Garrido (Researcher, IFOP), Nicole Pesse (Researcher, IFOP), Paulo Salgado (Research, IFOP), Isabel Bravo (Dr., Senior researcher, Instituto Español de Oceanografía de Vigo, Spain), Rosa Figueroa (PhD., Researcher, Universidad of Lund, Sweden).


Is the northwards expansion of Alexandrium catenella from southern Chile determined by climate oceanographic features and/or by the increase of aquaculture activities? Blooms of A. catenella in Chile are events that have naturally occurred in the southernmost area of the country since 1972. However, these blooms have subsequently been observed in lower latitudes, specifically in areas where there has been a great development of salmon and mussel farming during the last two decades. The reasons for this observed trend are not well known. It could be likely that the notorious development of the aquaculture in Chile has favoured somehow the factors that can promote blooms of A. catenella. In addition, there is evidence that regional phenomena such as ENSO, influence the intensity of these blooms in this large geographical area (Guzmán et al. 2004). The present project has as first objective, to study and update the database in the study of the coastal areas of Chile affected by the A. catenellablooms in order to investigate the factors suspected as well as the influence of ENSO to affect the spreading of this species towards lower latitudes of Chile.

Recently there are evidences that suggest a high probability that both the vegetative phase as well as the cysts of A. catenella can be transported from its blooming area to microalga-free zones: 1) by means of fishing gear (e.g. Pizarro et al. 2009), 2) through the transfer of live molluscs (e.g. Harper et al. 2000, Hégaret et al. 2008) and 3) by wellboats, through transport waters for carrying live salmon. Our project also seeks to assess the risk of these factors to transport different life cycle stages of A. catenella along our shores in southern Chile. The transport of living organisms through wellboats has only increased in recent years as a consequence of rapid growth of salmon farming. Therefore we have no information about the transport risk of harmful algae in our country by these ships. For this reason this objective is also addressed. A third goal of this project is to explore whether it will be possible to eliminate or inactivate the different stages of this microalga found in different substrates (alive organisms or fomites). The identification of benthic organisms and other inert elements of intensive use in aquaculture activities (fomites), which may act as potential spreaders of this microalga, will be also considered. During a bloom, commercial size molluscs of different species and nets taken from an A. catenella-free area will be moored in the water column to assess their capacity as collectors of this microalga. Activities to be carried out include in situ experiments to establish the cyst generation rates by using sediment traps during and after an A. catenella bloom.


Has funding been obtained?  Yes: X



PROJECT TITLE: GAMBOS: Estudio de la distribución de dos dinoflagelados bentónicos marinos GambierdiscusOstreopsis, con especial detalle en la producción de toxinas y su relación con la salud pública.

Study of the benthic marine dinoflagellates Gambierdiscus and Ostreopsis, with a special emphasis on the toxin production and its relationship to public health.

Coordinator: Dr. José M. Franco Soler, Instituto de Investigaciones Mariñas (CSIC)

Other key persons (name, title and institution): Santiago Fraga, Investigador, Instituto Español de Oceanografía; Dr. Magda Vila, Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC); Dr. Jorge Diogène, Centro de Acuicultura del IRTA (Generalitat de Catalunya)


Ciguatera is globally the most important no bacterial disease associated with eating fish. It occurs in tropical areas mostly in the Caribbean and the Pacific and its symptoms seem to depend on a combination of toxin consumed, all the toxins, and the susceptibility of individuals. The main cause is ciguatoxin, which is produced by benthic dinoflagellates of Gambierdiscus genus. This microalgae grows epiphyte on macroalgae on tropical reefs.Gambierdiscus association with other toxic dinoflagellates with which it shares habitat, coupled with the complex symptomatology of ciguatera suggests the possibility of the participation of more than one organism. This syndrome has been registered for the first time in Canary Islands in 2004. As a result of previous projects two species of Gambierdiscus have been detected there, one of them being described as a new specie and the other in a very preliminary stage of study. The other genus studied in this project is Ostreopsis. This dinoflagellate produces palytoxin and it has also been associated with poisoning by consumption of fish and crustaceans, mainly in Indo-Pacific waters. In the last decade frequent cases of respiratory problems have been recorded during the summer on the Mediterranean coast, coinciding with the presence of large abundances of these toxic benthic dinoflagellates in the coastal causing great alarm in the tourism sector. The aim of this project is to characterize these two recently phenomena in Spanish waters which cause an increasing concern in the public health and tourism sectors and the determination of the involved toxins. The main hypothesis that arises is that recent ecological unbalances in the coastal rocky habitats have caused the proliferation of these microalgae which were in the past in low concentrations and did not cause any damage.

FUNDING We are applying to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for funds in the period 2012-2014.





PROJECT TITLE:  Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network – Harmful Algae (CAISN-HA).

Planned duration of activity, from : April 2007 to April 2011.

Contact:  Suzanne Roy, Professor,Address: Institut des Sciences de la Mer (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), 310 Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec, Canada  G5L, Tel/Fax:             +1-418-724-1650       , ext. 1748/+1-418-724-1842, E-mail:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., home page URL: (if applicable)

Other key persons (name, title and institution): André Rochon (Professsor, ISMER-UQAR, Canada), Irena Kaczmarska (Professor, University Mount-Allison, Canada). 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This national program has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to conduct the first set of comprehensive studies exploring the principal vectors and pathways that transport aquatic invasive species (AIS) to freshwater and marine ecosystems in Canada, to characterize the factors that influence establishment success of these species, and to construct risk assessment models that will direct future management policies. CAISN’s research program consists of 16 projects in which three common research themes are addressed in a regionally specific context using common methodology, personnel, and analyses. Canada remains highly vulnerable to new invasions by non-native species owing to our extensive and growing network of international trade and to global movements by its citizens (Colautti et al. 2005). For example, four new protists, an alga (Enteromorpha flexuosa), an amphipod (Gammarus tigrinus), and a rotifer (Brachionus diversicornis) have been detected in the Great Lakes since 2003 (Nicholls & MacIsaac 2004; Lougheed & Stevenson 2004; Grigorovich et al. 2005; C. van Overdijk, University of Windsor, pers. comm.). In addition, a series of recent and economically and ecologically important invasions has occurred in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The invaders include the green alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides (in 1996), the European green crab Carcinus maenas (in 1994), and the tunicates Styela clava (in 1998), Botrylloides violaceus andBotryllus schlosseri (both in 2004), and Ciona intestinalis (in 2005). The actual rate of establishment of new AIS is not known for any of these ecosystems, but coastal marine ecosystems in eastern and western Canada possibly support many more species than is currently recognized because these areas have been insufficiently studied. These coasts are each visited by >3000 transoceanic vessels per year, and thus opportunities for new species introductions are great.

Coastal ports each receive at least six times as many international ship visitations as the more invaded Great Lakes, thus they should be much more vulnerable to additional invasions by AIS transported either in ballast water (Levings et al. 2004), ballast sediment (Bailey et al. 2003, 2005) or attached to ship hulls (Gollasch 2002).

The research objectives for the Network are directed at three theme areas:

i) identification and quantification of vectors and pathways that transmit AIS to and within Canada;

ii) assessment of factors that affect establishment success of AIS;

iii) risk assessment modeling of AIS.

Species diversity and abundance typically decrease with increased voyage time; however, some individuals may survive very long voyages (e.g. Carlton et al. 1995; Ruiz et al. 2000a, 2005; Verling et al. 2005). Phytoplankton and zooplankton capable of producing resting cysts or inactivated stages (e.g. Hallegraeff & Bolch 1991; Bailey et al. 2003, 2005) may survive in ballast tanks for a long time and thus serve as introduced inoculum following ballast discharges. Ballast water also has been implicated in transfer of toxic phytoplankton species. The spread of these species has had major economic costs for the Australian aquaculture industry, including prolonged closures of shellfish farms (e.g. Hallegraeff & Sumner 1986). McCarthy & Crowder (2000) suggested that the role of ships in dispersing phytoplankton has been significantly underestimated, and that these taxa are prime candidates for successful ballast water transport.

The potential for ballasted species to invade depends on numerous factors including physical/chemical similarity between donor and recipient waters, species-specific biology, and inoculum density and frequency (Carlton 1985). Current thinking has, however, placed the emphasis on this latter aspect, now widely known as ‘propagule pressure’. This concept suggests that introduction effort, namely the number of propagules released into the environment, is an important determinant of what ultimately invades. Propagule supply from ballast or on ships’ hulls has been recognized as a key component of vector analysis (Smith et al. 1999) and is now the first step in the recommended management framework to control AIS invasions (Ruiz & Carlton 2003). Unfortunately, Canadian ballast water studies are few in number, geographically and taxonomically restricted, and are often available only in “grey” literature (e.g. Reid 1994; Harvey et al. 1999). In addition, ballast water studies have typically focused on transoceanic transport of AIS, while neglecting intra-coastal ship traffic. It is possible that intra-coastal shipping could represent a more important vector since it usually represents a greater proportion of total ship traffic than does transoceanic transits (e.g. Verling et al. 2005), because these ships are often exempt from MOE regulations (e.g. Levings 1999), and because survivorship of organisms in ballast decreases with voyage duration (e.g. Carlton 1985; Verling et al. 2005). While intra-coastal transport has been recognized as a potentially effective means of transferring AIS from heavily invaded hub sites in the USA (Wasson et al. 2001), its importance in Canada remains virtually unstudied.

Introductions via ballast sediments and fouling organisms on ships’ hulls are further potential sources of AIS (e.g. Gollasch 2002; Ruiz & Hewitt 2002; Ross et al. 2004; Ruiz et al. 2005) that have been very poorly characterized in Canada. Hull fouling may have been responsible for the dispersal of a number of important species that have invaded Canada in recent years, including several species of tunicates (e.g. Botrylloides violaceus and Botryllus schlosseri). Because vessels entering east and west coast ports originate from different regions of the world, these areas may be vulnerable to different suites of hull or sediment invaders. On the other hand, hull-fouling organisms are seemingly least likely to establish in the Great Lakes owing to physiological constraints of transatlantic crossings. However, no comparative studies of hull-fouling or sediment-based AIS have been conducted for coastal marine or Great Lakes ecosystems in Canada.

We have a priori chosen to sample three categories of ships (‘USA without MOE’; ‘USA with MOE’; and ‘overseas with MOE’) on both Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as ‘overseas with MOE’ for ships entering the Great Lakes. This selection captures most of the vessels entering coastal areas, and will permit us to evaluate both the effect of MOE (USA ships with and without) and the effect of transit time (short [=USA] vs. long [=overseas]) on propagule pressure. As this latter effect may be confounded by differences in the AIS pools in the donor regions (USA vs. overseas), we will also specifically address the effect of transit time on propagule survival in a separate project. One of the projects (Roy, Rochon) focuses specifically on the dinoflagellates present in ballast water and ballast sediment (cyst form), as well as those found in coastal ports (hence that have been able to establish themselves in this environment) (sedimentary cysts are examined in this case). Another project (Kaczmarska) examines the diversity of diatoms in ballast water and their survival during trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific voyages on board the trans-oceanic ships. Several HAB species are present in these two groups of plankton, hence this information may help to understand the initiation, maintenance or prolongation of blooms of harmful algae (new species or species already present), especially in busy ports where discharged ballast may represent loadings of significant volumes of water. For these reasons we believe that such a project may be interesting for the GEOHAB community.

CAISN's program leader is Dr Hugh MacIsaac, a professor at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor. The applicants’ names indicated above cover only the two sub-projects of CAISN that deal specifically with invasive marine phytoplanton that may be harmful/toxic.

Project web site:

FUNDING:   Natural Sciences and Enginering Research Council of Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


Project title: GOMTOX,  Dynamics of Alexandrium fundyense distributions in the Gulf of Maine : an observational and modeling study of nearshore and offshore shellfish toxicity, vertical toxin flux, and bloom dynamics in a complex shelf sea. Acronym: GOMTOX Start: 1January 2006 End: September 2011 Homepage: AND Funding Programmes: US ECOHAB Budget: EUR554,000 (ERDF) Abstract: The overall objective is toestablish a comprehensive regional-scale understanding of Alexandrium fundyense dynamics, transport pathways, and associated shellfish toxicity and to use this information and relevant technologies to assist managers, regulators, and industry to fully exploit nearshore and offshore shellfish resources threatened by PSP, with appropriate safeguards for human health. GOMTOX will pursue a combined observational and modeling strategy utilizing partnerships between academia and governmental agencies, both federal and state. GOMTOX will utilize a combination of large-scale survey cruises, autonomous gliders, moored instruments and traps, drifters, satellite imagery and numerical models to: 1) investigate A. fundyense bloom dynamics and the pathways that link this organism to toxicity in both nearshore and offshore shellfish in the Gulf of Maine and southern New England shelf waters; 2) investigate the vertical structure of A. fundyense blooms in the study region, emphasizing the distribution of cells, zooplankton fecal pellets, other vectors for toxin, and their linkage to toxicity in offshore shellfish; 3) assess interannual to interdecadal variability in A. fundyenseabundance and PSP toxicity; 4) incorporate field observations into a suite of numerical models for hindcasting and forecasting applications; and 5) synthesize results and disseminate the information and technology, transitioning scientific and management tools to the regulatory community for operational use.  Partners: V. Monica Bricelj, National Research Council , Canada, Benjamin Cowie-Haskell, National Ocean Service, NOAA, Jonathan Deeds, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Stacey Etheridge , U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Sherwood Hall , U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Ruoying He , North Carolina State University, Bruce A. Keafer, Research Associate, WHOI, James P. Manning, NOAA, Jennifer Martin, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Dennis J. McGillicuddy, Jr., Associate Scientist, WHOI, Neal R. Pettigrew, University of Maine, Cynthia H. Pilskaln, University of Massachusetts , Dartmouth, Andrew Thomas, University of Maine, David W. Townsend, University of Maine, Jefferson T. Turner, University of Massachusetts , Dartmouth

Contact: D. Anderson , Pricipal Investigato r. ECOHAB GOM, NSF/NOAA) 

Project title: NORCOHABHarmful algal bloom species in the coastal North Sea. Acronym: NORCOHAB Start: Aberdeen, Scotland (embark Scottish scientist 10.06.07/disembark 21.06.07), Flodevigen/Arendahl, Norwey (embark Norwegian scientist 24.06.07/disembark 03.07.07). Funding Programmes: No dataAbstract: The project addresses key research question on the dynamics of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). The specific goals are:


1) To assess and compare the genotypic variability of populations of selected HAB species

2) To asses and compare the toxin profile and content of HAB species and toxin transfer and metabolism to the next trophic level

3) To asses and compare the effect of grazing by both metazoa and protists as a potential “top down” regulatory mechanism for population dynamics of HAB species

4) To assess potential effects of allelochemicals produced by Alexandrium spp. on the population dynamics and composition of the whole plankton community

5) To determine the intrinsic in situ growth rate of the HAB field population.

 The project will work in two General Research Areas, the East Coast of Scotland/Great Britain (Orkney Islands to Firth of Forth) and the South h Coast Norway/Skagerrak.

The objective of this cruise is to conduct an limited oceanographic survey for key species(Alexandrium spp., Pseudo-nitzschia spp., Dinophysis spp., etc.) that form Harmful Algal Blooms in the North Sea and adjacent coastal waters. Profiling instrumentation (biooptics, physical oceanography, fluorescence) will be combined with sampling for phytoplankton, microzooplankton and metazooplankton for on board experiments on grazing, population genetics and toxin compartmentalization. This cruise is expected to contribute to the comparative studies conducted under GEOHAB to understanding the processes underlying bloom dynamics.

 Partners:  11 scientists from AWI.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Allan Cembella, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Ressearch

Am Handelshafen 12, TEL.//TELEFAX No. +49-471-4831-1494/+49-471-4831-2115


Project title:  Forecasting Initiation of Blooms of Toxic Algae. Acronym: FINAL. Start: 1 September 2005 End: 31 December 2008. Homepage: Funding Programmes: INTERREG IIIB NORTH-WEST EUROPE, Budget:EUR554,000 (ERDF). Abstract: FINAL aims to provide a network of experts capable of addressing the problem of Harmful Algal Blooms in NW European waters. The two genera Alexandrium and Pseudo-nitzschia shall be studied in Brittany , Ireland and Scotland as they are of economic importance in these regions. The work of this network will include a number of related studies to achieve a better understanding of HAB development, risk assessment and prediction in the region:

1) Development of risk assessment strategies based on both historical data and new data collected in targeted field pilot studies across the regions. The development of harmful algal blooms in relationship to physical and chemical forcing variables of bloom initiation (e.g. tides, water temperature, salinity, nutrients). This will allow region-wide risk assessment based on easily measured criteria that will benefit both regulators and industry.

2) Exchange of mathematical models of HAB bloom development that exist within partner institutes, which will be applied to other regions.

Exchange of methodologies and techniques will provide a basis on which to exploit reasons for the initiation of harmful blooms of the chosen species.


a) IFREMER, Brest , France b) The Martin Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland , Galway , Ireland . c) The Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban, Scotland .

Contact: Annie Chapelle, Ifremer, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané , France , Tel/Fax:              +33 2 98 22 43 56       , E-mail : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Project title:
CEOHAB – Chinese Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms, 5 year national programme, 2003-2007.
Contact:Prof. Mingjiang ZHOU, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 7 Nanhai Road, Qingdao 266071, China, Tel+86 532 2898589, Fax  +86 532 2893088, E-mail  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www: 

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