Harmful algal blooms (HABs) have impacts on coastal economies, public health, and various endangered species. HABs are caused by a variety of organisms, most commonly dinoflagellates, diatoms, and cyanobacteria. In the late 1970's, optical remote sensing was found to have a potential for detecting the presence of blooms of Karenia brevis on the US Florida coast. Due to the nearly annual frequency of these blooms and the ability to note them with ocean color imagery, K. brevis blooms have strongly influenced the field of HAB remote sensing. However, with the variability between phytoplankton blooms, heir environment and their relatively narrow range of pigment types, particularly between toxic and non-toxic dinoflagellates and diatoms, techniques beyond optical detection are required for detecting and monitoring HABs. While satellite chlorophyll has some value, ecological or environmental characteristics are required to use chlorophyll. For example, identification of new blooms can be an effective means of identifying HABs that are quie intense, also blooms occurring after specific rainfall or wind events can be indicated as HABs. Several HAB species do not bloom in the traditional sense, in that they do not dominate the biomass. In these cases, remote sensing of SST or chlorophyll can be coupled with linkages to seasonal succession, changes in circulation or currents, and wind-induced transport--including upwelling and downwelling, to indicate the potential for a HAB to occur. An effective monitoring and forecasting system for HABs will require the coupling of remote sensing with an environmental and ecological understanding of the organism.