A spectacular algae bloom is causing the water across much of the Strait of Georgia to turn a bright, almost florescent, green.
If you’ve been out on the waters between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, you may have noticed an unusual hue in the ocean. It’s due to an abundance of coccolithophorids, a very small micro algae.
Nicky Haigh of the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program at Vancouver Island University has sampled the waters to determine exactly what’s causing the colour.
“The coccolithophorids have tiny calcium-carbonate scales which reflect the light and make the water look kind of chalky,” Haigh told Global News.
“There is another species of phytoplankton in there too, which probably give it the more greenish cast.”
The waters are so bright the bloom can even be seen by NASA satellites.
This photo animation shows the growing algae bloom from Aug. 11 to 22. It appears to be visible as far north as Desolation Sound and down south into the San Juan Islands. The brightest waters appear to be off the Sunshine Coast.
Haigh says she isn’t sure why the algae bloom is happening now – it’s not due to the sunny and warm weather the area has been receiving this month, but it could be due to ocean acidification.
“One theory is that maybe there is a link with ocean acidification because we are seeing more acid water inside Vancouver Island. It’s one of the areas where we are seeing lower pH. It’s more acid than a lot of other places in the world, so it’s showing the indication of climate change in that way.”
She says research has shown an increase in acidification is linked to more algae blooms.
Ken Denman, an adjunct professor at University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, says these blooms are usually seen off the coast and not often located in inner coastal areas.
The timing is sometimes caused when there hasn’t been a rainfall and ocean surface waters lose nutrients. Wind or tides will mix up nutrients and often result in an algae bloom. Denman also noted that the area has just seen its peak tides for the month.
While the colour may be disconcerting to swimmers, there’s no harm in taking a dip.
“It’s not a toxic species. It actually feels pretty nice in the water because it’s almost like water softener. We’re all going to come out of the water looking just that much younger,” Haigh joked.
Some beautiful pictures have come out of the area. Scroll below for more: