Sullivan, Baldwin, Bonamici & Joyce lead legislation to improve harmful algal bloom response

Washington, D.C. (KINY) – U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), have introduced the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act (HABHRCA) of 2023, legislation to reauthorize the HABHRCA of 1998 and to improve monitoring, forecasting, prevention, and mitigation of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia by requiring better coordination among task force agencies, and state and local entities, including Indian tribes.

This legislation comes in response to the increasing severity of harmful algal blooms in Alaska, with the 2022 algal bloom in the Bering Strait region being one of the largest and most toxic blooms ever observed nationwide. HABs directly threaten food security and subsistence in Alaska. Additionally, HABs can reduce oxygen levels in the water in events called hypoxia, killing fish and other marine life and harming coastal ecosystems and economies. HABs occur in all 50 states, in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. 

“As America’s leading seafood producer and home to more coastline than the contiguous Lower 48 states combined, Alaska is particularly vulnerable to harmful algal blooms,” Senator Sullivan said. “Unchecked HABs can threaten our marine life and coastal ecosystems, the livelihoods of our commercial fisheries and coastal communities, and the health and well-being of Alaskans. It is critical that we develop and coordinate effective responses to harmful algal blooms and efficiently monitor the health of our oceans for the sake of coastal communities, especially subsistence communities, and ecosystems across the country.”

The original Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA) was passed in 1998 and established an interagency task force to assess the distribution of harmful algal blooms and their impacts on coastal waters and human health. HABHRCA has since been reauthorized three times, through FY 2023, and is currently due for reauthorization. This bill reauthorizes the original 1998 HABHRCA, and improves coordination among state and local entities, as well as Indian tribes, to improve monitoring, forecasting, prevention, and mitigation of HABs and hypoxia.

A copy of the bill, S.3348, can be found here.