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Collaboration | Benefits to Managers | Education | Forecasting Tools

Sharing a common need to better understand the underlying dynamics of these disruptive events, a regional partnership was formed of tribal and non-tribal community leaders, businesses,and state and federal resource managers and researchers. Together they joined to form ORHAB- a regional forum to collaboratively seek answers.


To date, ORHAB has prevented commercial product recalls, limiting the occurrences of recreationally-harvested clams that must be destroyed, and lessening the impact from the loss of tourism dollars to local economies which are associated with short-notice recreational harvest closures and public notice of toxic events. It is clear that this collaboration offers a way to reduce the overall costs of HAB monitoring by taking advantage of the resources of our many partners. The formation of working relationships among the region's agencies play a decisive role in achieving the project's ultimate goal: a commitment to carry on the monitoring effort into the future without reliance on federal support.

Benefits to Managers

Because the ORHAB project provides weekly phytoplankton levels at several beach locations, the Washington State Dept of Health (WDOH) has allowed the Dept of Fish and Wildlife to reduce the number of razor clam samples to be tested prior to beach opening for harvest. This results in reduced cost and faster analysis. Prior to ORHAB, 4 days was needed to test clams for toxins and to post results. Now, because of WDFW's strong collaboration with other partners, results are posted in only 2 days.

ORHAB has helped managers in Washington State by enhancing communication between regulatory agencies, tribes, and HAB experts. While there will continue to be a reliance on the clam assay, the input from ORHAB phytoplankton surveys strengthens confidnece in WDOH management decisions.


Research scientists have trained Olympic coast locals in all sampling protocols required for monitoring phytoplankton, domoic acid, and environmental parameters. The ORHAB partners also communicate with public interest groups, politicians, and the general public about the value of long-term HAB monitoring along the Washington coast.

Forecasting Tools

ORHAB has been in existence only since the summer of 2000, but it has already enhanced our understanding of the processes that govern the timing and spatial distributions of Pseudo-nitzschia cells and their transport to coastal shellfish. We now have theories about how these blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia start. The Juan de Fuca eddy region (cold water) is a site of persistent upwelling (nutrient enrichment) throughout the summer months. Blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia may initiate in this zone. The duration of upwelling and the timing of the first major fall storms are factors believed to influence the levels of toxin that reach coastal razor clam populations. The Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory is using satellite images to examine the extent and movement of the eddy. The University of Washington is developing a model to understand the physical conditions that transport Pseudo-nitzschia to the coast. Using these tools, we believe it may be possible to track and forecast the timing and movement of harmful algal blooms as they come ashore.

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