What is ORHAB?
The Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) is a partnership among federal, state, tribal and local management and research agencies, marine resource-based businesses, and academic institutions. The ORHAB partnership investigates the origins of blooms of toxic algae, monitors where and when the blooms occur, assesses the environmental conditions conducive to blooms and toxification of shellfish populations, and explores methods to reduce HAB impacts on humans and the environment.
Initial ORHAB Project Funding
Current ORHAB Funding
ORHAB was formed to build regional capacity to reduce the devastating impacts of marine biotoxin outbreaks on coastal communities of the Olympic Peninsula. MERHAB recognized the potential of ORHAB’s collaboration among federal, tribal, state, local agencies and the private organization when it offered support for a 5-year monitoring partnership. With short term assistance, ORHAB agreed to lay the groundwork for a permanent program of HAB monitoring and mitigation that would not rely on federal support. In acting as a catalyst for the creation of enduring HAB monitoring programs, MERHAB achieves multiple returns on its investment. Non-federal partners are brought together in ways that enhance the capacity of each. The data generated forms the basis for additional research endeavors. The local and regional capacities to make wise management decisions are broadened. Communities develop the knowledge and information to better determine their future.
In 2003 the Washington State Legislature recognized the value of ORHAB and established a permanent source of funding for state activities. A surcharge was added to the cost of recreational shellfish licenses to maintain the monitoring effort. Each year, these fees contribute $150,000 to a special account managed by the University of Washington’s Olympic Natural Resource Center (ONRC). ONRC was created by the Washington Legislature to promote scientific research that addresses the region’s high priority natural resource issues. ONRC will use these funds to maintain ORHAB’s coastwide sampling effort which collects data on toxins, environmental conditions, and plankton blooms. The two state agencies most involved in shellfish management-the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Health –will continue to rely on ORHAB data to understand more fully key changes in conditions along the coast. Both agencies have praised the ORHAB effort as one that shed enormous light on HAB outbreaks that previously were frustratingly unpredictable. ONRC has launched a public education and outreach effort to inform local residents and visitors about HAB impacts and the benefits of ORHAB monitoring.
Tribal governments have also recognized the need for HAB monitoring and research and have assumed costs for their support. Their internal programs produce data used to protect their tribal members and to add spatial coverage to the ORHAB project on the Washington coast. The state-run ORHAB project recognizes the value of tribal partnerships and supports those programs with shared expertise, supplies and data.