A beach on Saint Martin in the Caribbean, east of Puerto Rico, is covered in Sargassum seaweed. On Tuesday, NOAA announced $20 million in funding to monitor and research harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, which can kill fish and harm human health. Photo courtesy of NOAA AOML
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- More than $20 million has been pledged to monitor and research harmful algal blooms, along U.S. coastal waters and in the Great Lakes, which can kill fish and threaten human health.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the funding Tuesday, which includes more than $14 million for NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and $6 million for the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Office.
"Today, IOOS and NCCOS jointly announced $20 million in funding for HAB and hypoxia activities. This includes $3 million for new projects under IOOS's Ocean Technology Transition program, and $3 million to the IOOS Regional Associations," the IOOS office announced in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
According to NOAA, harmful algal blooms -- or HABs -- cost the U.S. economy millions of dollars each year due to health hazards, impacts on fisheries and loss of recreation and tourism. Hypoxia -- or low oxygen -- occurs when the algal blooms die, sink to the bottom of a lake or ocean and decompose.
"Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia affect coastal and inland waters and can be devastating to communities and businesses," Carl Gouldman, director of the U.S. IOOS Office, said in a statement. "These awards are part of NOAA's ongoing commitment to advance our abilities to forecast, manage and mitigate the effects of these events nationwide."
Harmful algae blooms, or red tides, that occur naturally off the coast of Florida increased last year following Hurricane Ian, which is believed to have stirred the blooms from the bottom of the ocean and pushed them toward shore.
Rising ocean temperatures have also increased other kinds of blooms, including mucilage blooms, which are nicknamed "sea snot" due to thick layers of brown foam. Mucilage blooms are often seen along the coast of the Black and Aegean seas during the spring and summer as water temperatures rise.
"Our ability to mitigate the impacts of HABs and hypoxia through early-warning and other approaches continues to improve, but changes in both global and regional climates have the potential to pose new challenges," said David Kidwell, director of NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Competitive Research Program.
"These grants will facilitate improved understanding and better decision-making as resource managers address the challenges of protecting both communities and ecosystems in a changing climate."