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Red algea reported in Sound harmless

Red algea blooms reported in Sinclair Inlet and other areas of Puget Sound are harmless, the Department of Ecology says.

Ecology has received laboratory confirmations that several red-orange algae blooms showing up in Puget Sound are harmless to people. The blooms are not the so-called “red tide” that refers to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

According to Dr. Christopher Krembs, senior oceanographer with Ecology’s marine monitoring program, reports of the algae bloom sightings have come to Ecology from Sinclair Inlet and Bainbridge Island as well as multiple other areas:

According to Dr. Christopher Krembs, senior oceanographer with Ecology’s marine monitoring program, reports of the algae bloom sightings have come to Ecology from Sinclair Inlet and Bainbridge Island as well as multiple other areas:

  • Alki Beach
  • Bainbridge Island
  • Boston Harbor
  • Des Moines
  • Edmonds
  • Elliott Bay
  • Shoreline
  • Sinclair Inlet
  • Strait of Juan de Fuca

The harmless red-orange bloom is Noctiluca (pronounced “nock-ti-LU-kah”), a harmless single-celled micro-organism that occurs normally this time of year. This type of plankton does not photosynthesize but gets its red color from the phytoplankton it eats.

“This type of bloom shows up as large, red-brown, even orange ‘tomato-soup-like’ streaks along current and tidal convergence lines," Krembs said.

The blooms tend to accumulate along shores and beaches. As the sun warms the water, the water stratifies, holding the tiny plankton near the surface where they flourish.

“Citizens have sent us multiple images taken from shore,” Krembs said. “This is a testament to the value of citizen observations. We can’t wait to get an Eyes Over Puget Sound flight next week to check this out. I am very interested in seeing the entire scale of it.

“We are seeing these blooms arrive three weeks earlier than the last two years. This comes following a change back to expected oceanographic conditions from the previous two years that were colder and fresher,” he said. “With the weather being this mild it is not all too surprising to have blooms starting in May.”

Ecology often receives inquiries from the public who suspect an oil or paint spill.

If you see red, brown or orange colored water in Puget Sound, it is likely this bloom. However, Ecology continues to encourage the public to report any suspected pollution in the water.

If you are observing an algae bloom in freshwater, be extremely careful. It could be a toxic algae bloom that is poisonous to people and pets.

Pollution problems can be reported to the Department of Ecology online or by calling the Ecology office nearest.

 

 

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