Washington D.C. – Seen as a major problem in many coastal regions, the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today held a hearing to examine harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia.  Specifically, the hearing looked at research needs to develop and implement action plans to monitor, prevent, mitigate and control both marine and fresh water bloom and hypoxia events.

Representing the eastern shore of Maryland, Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris discussed the damage associated with HABs to the Chesapeake Bay. “Harmful algal blooms cause oxygen depleted dead zones that can kill fish and other marine life in the Bay,” Harris noted.  “The collaborative efforts reauthorized in legislation I will introduce help harness the ingenuity and resources available from the private sector, academia, local governments and non-profits, as well as the federal government.”

Witnesses today weighed in on draft legislation entitled The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2011, which will be introduced by Chairman Harris in the coming weeks. The bill would reauthorize programs under the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.

HABs are an abundance of freshwater or marine algae that can produce toxins and cause harm to the surrounding environment. Virtually every State has been affected by HABs, making this a national problem. However, the different types of algae, the causes of their explosive growth, and the effect they have on the ecosystem varies so greatly that there is no single, national solution to deal with HABs. Not only do HABs and hypoxia represent an important environmental issue, but they can also have a direct detrimental effect the livelihoods of Americans who rely on clean, healthy waterways. 

Chairman Harris said that “Given the importance of these issues to human health, economic prosperity and the environment, I think it is important for us to ensure that these research programs continue and work on providing multiple ways of addressing HABs and hypoxia in the future.”

Representing the Chesapeake Research Consortium, Dr. Kevin Sellner, outlined a number options in various stages of development for mitigating recurrent algal accumulations.  Dr. Sellner also stressed the importance of reauthorizing the programs in Chairman Harris’s draft legislation.  He said that these programs are important “for safe-guarding our nation’s waters from toxins and bloom-induced losses to our economies and health of our citizens, their animals, and our important and productive aquatic ecosystems.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Dr. Robert Magnien, Director, Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Richard Greene, Chief, Ecosystems Dynamics and Effects Branch, Gulf Ecology Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. Don Anderson, Senior Scientist and Director, Coastal Ocean Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Dr. Kevin Sellner, Executive Director, Chesapeake Research Consortium
Dr. Stephanie Smith, Chief Scientist, Algaeventure Systems
Dr. Beth McGee, Senior Water Quality Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation