Toxic algal blooms cause more economic damage to aquaculture than any greater storm

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By Milthon Lujan

A new compendium of case studies on the economic impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on wild and recreational fisheries and aquaculture has recently been published by the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES)


Based on a co-sponsored PICES and IOC-SCOR GlobalHAB Workshop on Evaluating, Reducing and Mitigating the Cost of Harmful Algal Blooms, this report compiles case studies on the economic impacts of HABs on farmed salmon and shellfish, and on wild-caught, reef-based fisheries, with the aim to guide future research and management decisions as to mitigate the risks associated with these natural events.

The report shows that HAB-related losses faced by insurers of aquaculture operations make up to 45% of insurance claims – and they are larger than any storm that insurers have ever faced.

Despite the several research initiatives of the last two decades, the lack of data, appropriate and standardized protocols, and the dearth of peer-reviewed studies hamper efforts to quantify the societal costs of HAB events, which are increasingly frequent, intense, and long-lasting.

As of today, most countries have neither conducted economic analyses of HABs nor collected data that can be used to generate reliable quantitative estimates of net economic losses and impacts.


As a consequence, it is hard to develop effective strategies to prevent, control and mitigate HAB events.

Among the most effective strategies for mitigation of HAB-associated risks, data and information play a key role for better forecasts.

The huge HAB-related losses to industry, consumers, and governments illustrate the need for insurers, the aquaculture industry, public health professionals, economists, and HAB scientists to work together to better understand the environmental drivers and economic impacts of HAB events, with the aim of using such knowledge to come up with solutions to mitigate risks.

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The report benefitted from the expertise of over 48 international experts on economics, insurance of aquaculture companies, and the science of HABs from Australia, Canada, China, Chile, France, Japan, Korea, Norway, Scotland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the USA.


Henrik Enevoldsen,
Technical Secretary of the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (IPHAB)
Email: h.enevoldsen@unesco.org

Reference (open access):
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. 

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