Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on West Coast Fishing Communities
Learn more about how harmful algal blooms change ecosystems and coastal communities.
We conduct research to better understand the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in fishing communities. We consider the direct effects of HABs on fisheries resources and the impacts of management and mitigation actions taken in response to HAB events. Adverse effects include, but are not limited to:
- Economic losses associated with reduced commercial fish harvests and reduced tourism due to curtailed recreational fishing opportunities.
- Food insecurity from loss of subsistence harvest activities.
- Disruption of cultural and spiritual practices.
- Loss of community identity and social interactions tied to coastal resource use.
Preparing fishing communities for emerging and growing HAB events is key to reducing their impacts. We use a conceptual framework of human wellbeing for ecosystem assessment and management to understand the human dimensions of HABs and evaluate risk and resiliency factors that may affect a community’s ability to cope with a HAB event. Also, we provide an annual report to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council describing HAB dynamics.
Our goal is to inform the development of cost-effective strategies, and individualized action plans to build resilience to future HAB events so that fishing communities can maintain their quality of life, valued customs, and economic industries. This work supports our mandate under National Standard 8 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to minimize economic impacts and sustain participation in fisheries in these communities.
Story Map: Hitting Us Where it Hurts
Pseudo-nitzschia, Domoic Acid, and West Coast Fisheries
Much of our research focuses on West Coast HABs of Pseudo-nitzschia that can contaminate fish and shellfish with the toxin domoic acid. Access to important commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries is restricted when domoic acid exceeds the regulatory thresholds for human consumption, disrupting social-ecological connections.
In 2015, a record-breaking bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia struck the West Coast, delaying the lucrative Dungeness crab fishery opening by up to five months and shutting down the popular razor clam fishery. With support from the JPB Foundation and the JPB Environmental Health Fellows Program, we worked to document the impacts of the 2015 HAB on fishing communities, evaluate management responses and inform disaster risk reduction strategies, and understand the factors contributing to vulnerability and resilience of communities to HABs. Specific products include:
- A description of the social, cultural, and economic impacts of the 2015 HAB (Ritzman et al. 2018) and actions taken to cope with the event (Moore et al. 2020a).
- An estimation of lost revenues to fishers due to the 2015 HAB, and resulting losses in income and employment (Holland and Leonard 2020).
- Identification of effective adaptive actions used in communities in response to the 2015 HAB (Moore et al., 2020b).
- An examination of management actions at different levels of governance and responses of coastal residents to HABs using a disaster risk management framework (Ekstrom et al. 2020).
- Identification of West Coast fishing communities most vulnerable to HABs and development of an index of lost fishing opportunities due to HABs (Moore et al. 2019).
- An examination of distributional impacts of the 2015 HAB on small and large vessels in the commercial Dungeness crab fishery (Jardine et al. 2020).
- Quantification of changes to patterns of participation in commercial fisheries in response to the 2015 HAB (Fisher et al. 2021).
In the Dungeness crab fishery, these HAB-related impacts that tend to affect the earlier portion of the fishing season are being compounded with a recent rise in whale entanglements in the later portion of the fishing season. Our group is working with partners to study the consequences of this squeeze for social and ecological dynamics in the California Current in an effort to develop scalable solutions.
Personal Accounts of a Massive Toxic Bloom
Community members recount personal experiences of the socioeconomic effects of the 2015 HAB.
Learning from the Past
Learn about past impacts and how they can inform future actions.
Anderson, L. E., M. Plummer. 2017. Recreational demand for shellfish harvesting under environmental closures. Marine Resource Economics, 32(1):43-57. doi:10.1086/688975
Ekstrom, J.A., Moore, S.K., Klinger, T., 2020. Examining harmful algal blooms through a disaster risk management lens: A case study of the 2015 U.S. West Coast domoic acid event. Harmful Algae 94, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2020.101740.
Fisher, M.C., Moore, S.K., Jardine, S.L., Watson, J.R., Samhouri, J.F., 2021. Climate shock effects and mediation in fisheries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118(2), e2014379117.
Holland, D.S., Leonard, J., 2020. Is a delay a disaster? Economic impacts of the delay of the California Dungeness crab fishery due to a harmful algal bloom. Harmful Algae 98, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2020.101904.
Jardine, S.L., Fisher, M., Moore, S., Samhouri, J., 2020. Inequality in the economic impacts from climate shocks in fisheries: the case of harmful algal blooms. Ecol Econ 176, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106691.
Moore, S.K., Cline, M.R., Blair, K., Klinger, T., Varney, A., Norman, K., 2019. An index of fisheries closures due to harmful algal blooms and a framework for identifying vulnerable fishing communities on the U.S. West Coast. Marine Policy, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103543.
Moore, S.K., Dreyer, S.J., Ekstrom, J.A., Moore, K., Norman, K., Klinger, T., Allison, E.H., Jardine, S.L., 2020a. Harmful algal blooms and coastal communities: socioeconomic impacts and actions taken to cope with the 2015 U.S. West Coast domoic acid event. Harmful Algae 96, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2020.101799.
Moore, K.M., Allison, E.H., Dreyer, S.J., Ekstrom, J.A., Jardine, S.L., Klinger, T., Moore, S.K., Norman, K.C., 2020b. Harmful algal blooms: identifying effective adaptive actions used in fishery-dependent communities in response to a protracted event. Frontiers in Marine Science 6, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00803.
Ritzman, J., Brodbeck, A., Brostrom, S., McGrew, S., Dreyer, S., Klinger, T., Moore, S.K., 2018. Economic and sociocultural impacts of fisheries closures in two fishing-dependent communities following the massive 2015 U.S. West Coast harmful algal bloom. Harmful Algae 80, 35-45; doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2018.1009.1002
Trainer, V.L. (Ed.), 2020. GlobalHAB. Evaluating, Reducing and Mitigating the Cost of Harmful Algal Blooms: A Compendium of Case Studies. PICES Sci. Rep. No. 59, 107 pp., https://meetings.pices.int/publications/scientific-reports.