Phytoplankton blooms, micro-algal blooms, toxic algae, red tides, or harmful algae: about 300 hundred species of micro algae are reported at times to form mass occurrence, known as blooms. Nearly one fourth of these species are known to produce toxins. The scientific community refers to these events with a generic term, 'Harmful Algal Bloom' (HAB), although it is understood that not all HABs are 'algal' and not all occur as 'blooms'.
Proliferations of microalgae can cause massive fish kills, contaminate seafood with toxins, and alter ecosystems. The harmful effects of HABs extend well beyond direct economic losses and impacts on human health. When HABs contaminate or destroy coastal resources, the livelihoods of local residents are threatened and the sustenance of human populations is compromised.
Over the past 20 years, UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC) has provided an international framework for cooperation on research, improved observation, capacity building and management of HABs and their effects on society, including impacts on fisheries, aquaculture, public health and tourism. During this time, its technical newsletter, 'Harmful Algae News' (HAN), has been a key vehicle for global communication and networking. The latest issue, released in January 2012, marks its 20th anniversary.
The first issues were published as a supplement to the UNESCO International Marine Science newsletter, which ceased to exist many years ago. HAN's continued success is a tribute to Editor Tim Wyatt's commitment and to the support provided by the IOC Science and Communication Centres on HAB in Vigo (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark) as well as the associated sponsorships by Spanish and Danish host institutions.
This highly specialized newsletter plays a complementary role to that of peer reviewed journals; it counts with 2000 print subscribers and many more online readers. UNESCO-IOC is pleased that the International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae (ISSHA) has chosen HAN as its newsletter, recognizing that is it a meaningful and practical resource. Technology today offers new opportunities to stay connected across the globe and the 20th anniversary also marks the introduction of new layout and the possibility of e-subscription to an on-line version of HAN (http://www.e-pages.dk/ku/542/).
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