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Harmful cyanobacterial blooms have caused several problems in freshwater environments due to their prolific growth and the harmful cyanotoxins produced by some species. The occurrence of these organisms has increased in recent decades due to climate change and eutrophication, although most studies are from temperate regions in the Northern hemisphere. This review presents data about cyanobacteria occurrence, dominance, and toxicity events in freshwater bodies in a semiarid region of Northeast Brazil, in the tropical Southern hemisphere. We performed a literature survey of cyanobacteria publications from 1930 to 2016. We made a list of all the dominant species registered in each state, noted their distribution and occurrence of dominance events involving one or more species, and the registered records of toxic blooms, including information about the toxins involved and the range of values. We selected 102 publications that described cyanobacteria occurrence from states in Northeast Brazil; these publications included relevant contributions regarding cyanobacteria distribution, richness, density, and biomass. Forty-nine dominant species were recorded, with the most representation found in the state of Pernambuco (30 spp.). The genera with the highest occurrences were Microcystis, Cylindrospermopsis, Planktothrix, Dolichospermum (=Anabaena), and Geitlerinema, especially the species Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii, Microcystis aeruginosa, and Planktothrix agardhii. Episodes of toxic blooms were observed in four states. Microcystins, cylindrospermopsin, saxitoxins, and anatoxin-a(S) were found to be associated with these blooms. In Northeast Brazil, harmful cyanobacterial blooms are common in urban and public reservoirs. However, in recent years, cyanobacterial blooms in this region have been more intense and perennial, with high biomass occurring throughout the year.