Harmful Algal Bloom Programme (HABP)

The overall aim of the IOC Harmful Algal Bloom Programme (HABP) is to foster the effective management of, and scientific research on, harmful algal blooms in order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences, and mitigate their effects.

The HABP is overseen by the Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (UK Contact: Eileen Bresnan, Marine Scotland). A number of task teams feed into this:

  • Biotoxin Monitoring, Management and Regulations (UK Contact: None)
  • Algal Taxonomy (UK Contact: None)
  • Joint HABP/IODE Development of the Harmful Algal Information System (UK Contact: None)
  • HAB Monitoring within the Global Ocean Observing System (UK Contact: Liam Fernand, Cefas)

The full IPHAB activities list has been reduced here and aligned with the activities format from the most recent IPHAB meeting in 2019 to highlight UK participation within IPHAB governance:

IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms: Oversees and guides the HABP

UK Contact: Eileen Bresnan (Marine Scotland)

 Scientific Elements

       Capacity Development

     Communication & Data

The ICES-IOC Working Group on HAB Dynamics (WGHABD) is Chaired by Eileen Bresnan (Marine Scotland).

Participants reporting on devolved nation updates are represented by Cefas, SAMS, and AFBI-NI.

Jeremy Young (UCL) lectures as part of the Advanced Phytoplankton Course

Eileen Bresnan (Marine Scotland) is one of the editors of the Harmful Algal News

The ICES-IOC-IMO Working Group on Ballast and Other Ship Vectors (WGBOSV) has UK participation from Cefas, Orkney Islands Council, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Marine Scotland



Global HAB Scientific Steering Committee oversees the Global HAB programme sponsored by the IOC and SCOR.

Neil Banas (Strathclyde University) is a member of this steering committee.



UK Contributions to the Scientific Elements of IPHAB


The IOC-ICES-PICES Harmful Algae Event Database (HAEDAT), which is being built within the IODE, is used by the UK to upload relevant events.


As part of the WGHABD, water sample updates are submitted from each country. For the UK, these come from Cefas (England and Wales), AFBI (Northern Ireland) and SAMS (Scotland). These updates include types of phytoplankton recorded, toxins detected, any toxin impacts (e.g. shellfish poisoning) and any large scale events. The latest WGHABD report was from the 2018 meeting.

Ongoing/recently completed projects that feed into this working group, also taken from the 2018 report, include:

  • Web portal showing the risk of HAB species Karenia mikimotoi using satellite ocean colour classifiers developed by PML for PRIMROSE and S-3 EUROHAB projects. Credit: PMLShellEye: use of satellites for early warning of water quality risks to aquaculture. Joint project between Cefas, PML, University of Exeter and SAMS
    • UK Contact: Peter Miller (PML)
  • S-3 EUROHAB: use of satellites to track HABs in the English/French Channel region and developing a web-based alert system to track HABs to notify marine managers and the fishing industry of potentially damaging HABs. Joint project between French and UK organisations
    • UK Contact: Gavin Tilstone (PML)
  • TAPAS: research project to develop tools and approaches to help EU Member States establish a coherent and efficient regulatory framework, implement the Strategic Guidelines for the sustainable development of European aquaculture and delivering a technology and decision framework for sustainable growth
    • UK Contact: Trevor Telfer (University of Stirling)
  • PRIMROSE: project to deliver improvied forecasts of HABs, microbial risks and climate impacts in aquaculture locations across Europe’s Atlantic Arc
    • UK Contact: Keith Davidson (SAMS)


This working group covers non-native and invasive species transferred via ballast waters and other ship vectors, therefore it covers from phytoplankton through to larger necktonic species. The UK (including Cefas, Marine Scotland, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resource Wales) works across these scales. Of particular interest under the HABP, from the 2018 WG report, updates includes:

  • Orkney Islands Council implement a Ballast Water Management Policy for Scapa Flow and do annual non-native species monitoring
    • UK Contact: Jenni Kakkonen (Orkney Islands Council)
  • Marine Scotland survey and monitor aquaculture sites, marinas and a sealock. MS also are developing DNA-based monitoring techniques for invasive, non-native species (INNS) and working alongside SEPA to determine high risk areas suitable for routine INNS surveillance
    • UK Contact: Lyndsay Brown (Marine Scotland)
  • Natural Resource Wales are undertaking surveys of dredge disposal sites and introducing biosecurity management measures
    • UK Contact: Stuart Jenkins (Bangor University)
  • Cefas leads on guidance of INNS through the Marine Pathways Group, monitoring and surveillance programmes and molecular analysis of marine invasive species
    • UK Contact: Paul Stebbing (Cefas)

The UK is actively engaged with industry and the IMO to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004.

Global HAB

The UK has been involved in a number of Global HAB-endorsed projects including:


Satellite image showing Chl-a concentrations. Produced by NEODAAS from data collected by the VIIRS sensor onboard the NOAA SUOMI satellite. Credit: PML Plankton net used to collect samples. Credit: Jackie Pearson