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History of Florida’s Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force

The Beginning

In 1997, the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force (HABTF) was created to address the issues of health, environment, and economic impacts from HABs in Florida. The Task Force was conceived in response to two major 1996 HAB events: 1) Pfiesteria-related fish kills along the Eastern Seaboard, and 2) a Karenia brevis red tide that caused mass manatee mortalities. Coordinated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), membership included more than 50 representatives from a wide range of public and private organizations. Under the HABTF, a 15-member Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was appointed to review and report back on HAB issues in Florida to help determine priority areas to address.

Setting Priorities

In 1999, the TAG released the white paper Harmful Algal Blooms in Florida. This report provided background information, identified research needs, and suggested recommendations for six major HAB concerns in Florida: 1) Red Tide, 2) Pfiesteria-like species in estuarine waters, 3) Ciguatera, 4) Toxic blue-green algae, 5) Harmful microalgae as tumor promoters, and 6) Macroalgae. The HABTF finalized the report and submitted to state legislature that October. The result, the creation of Florida Statutes 379.2271 (formerly 370.06092) and 379.2272 (formerly 370.06093), formalizing the HABTF and charging them with key tasks:

  • Review the status and adequacy of information for monitoring factors affecting HABs in Florida;
  • Develop research and monitoring priorities for HABs in Florida;
  • Develop recommendations that can be implemented by state and local governments to create HAB response plans; and
  • Make recommendations to FWRI to implement a cooperative HAB program for research, monitoring, detection, and control and mitigation projects.

Outcomes

FWRI appropriated $3 million for projects between 1998 and 2001. Funded projects focused on a number of important information and research needs, addressing concerns of both public and private sectors. Projects included investigating human, animal and environmental health threats; economic impacts; and monitoring and detection methods. Studies were prioritized by the major areas of concern identified in the TAG White Paper with Karenia brevis red tide studies receiving approximately one-half of all project dollars. Remaining funds went to blue-green algae ($683,050), Pfiesteria and Pfiesteria-like organisms ($500,000), and macroalgae ($83,475) projects.

The last official meeting of the HABTF was April 2002. Since 2002, various funding sources have supported task force priorities through a number of related initiatives such as the Red Tide Alliance, the Red Tide Control and Mitigation Grant Program (2007-2009), and the HABTF Public Health Technical Panel (2003-2006). In 2009, FWRI and the Florida Department of Health published the joint technical report Resource Guide for Public Health Response to Harmful Algal Blooms in Florida that expanded and updated the information identified in the 1999 white paper.

Reconvened Task Force

As of July 1, 2019, with support of the Governor and Legislature, the FWC-FWRI reconvened the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force now commonly referred to as the Red Tide Task Force. The Task Force will work closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Blue-Green Algae Task Force and Mote Marine Laboratory’s Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative to address HAB information needs and research gaps. Visit the Task Force webpage for more information on current membership and activities.

To view past reports of the HABTF and learn more about ongoing related HAB research and initiatives visit the Scientific Products page.