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The toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis forms harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Gulf of Mexico. The toxins produced by K. brevis cause massive fish kills, contaminate bivalves such as clams and oysters, and produce toxic aerosols. These HABs result in closure of commercial seafood production, disruption of recreational fishing enterprises, and despondent tourists due to the dead fish and toxic aerosols at the beach. Our HAB Observing System is designed to begin to fulfill the critical need to detect and track these toxic blooms over economically relevant spatial/temporal scales. The two primary components in our HAB Observing system are the Optical Phytoplankton Discriminators (OPDs) placed on a variety of ocean platforms and the Beach Conditions Reporting System (BCRS). Data generated by the two systems are transferred in near-real-time providing critical information on HAB presences, absence, and impacts for the research community, resource managers, government agencies, and the general public. The two components, OPD and BCRS, have both seen major growth in the number of units/locations since implementation. The major challenges in keeping our HAB Observing System operational have been engineering, funding, and the natural environment. The OPD data have assisted the research community greatly in sampling strategies, whereas the BCRS data provide beachgoers with needed information to optimize their beach experience.