Phaeocystis blooms in the Southern Bight of the North Sea may cause damage to the aquatic ecosystem and to commercial mussel cultures at the entrance of the Oosterschelde estuary. In this paper the potential for early detection of Phaeocystis blooms in Dutch coastal waters is studied, using a combination of field data, satellite observations and hydrodynamic- and biological modelling. For the spring bloom period in the year 2003 MERIS chlorophyll-a maps, derived with the HYDROPT algorithm for coastal waters, were compared to in-situ measurements at stations off the coast in de Voordelta and the results of the GEM biogeochemical model.The analysis shows that the spatial and temporal variability in Phaeocystis abundance and total biomass (expressed by the Chl-a concentration) during spring is large. It is confirmed that blooms may develop off shore and show a tendency to accumulate within 10. km from the coastline, giving rise to rapid biomass accumulation at the mouth of the multiple estuaries in the Voordelta. Based on the outcome of this study an early warning system is proposed that notifies local water managers and shellfish growers for potentially harmful Phaeocystis bloom formation. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.