Plankton blooms sometimes offer dramatic visuals

We’re getting reports from all over Hood Canal as well as other waterways about plankton blooms that are coloring the water red, reddish orange and other dramatic colors. See the story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

<i>Plankton bloom near Seabeck yesterday</i><br><small> Photo by Don Paulson, Seabeck</small>
Plankton bloom near Seabeck on Hood Canal yesterday (Click to enlarge)
Photo by Don Paulson, Seabeck

Health authorities and researchers are checking to make sure the plankton are not the kind that create toxins that can poison people, pets or sea creatures. So far, reports indicate that most of the plankton belong to the genus Noctiluca, which don’t appear to cause a safety problem.

I’ve heard some great descriptions regarding “ribbons” of color lining the shore in various places. Folks often have trouble capturing the visual drama in a photograph. A rare exception is a picture we received today from Don Paulson of Don Paulson Photography. Paulson says he captured this picture yesterday at his home near Seabeck.

If anyone else has been able to get a good image, please send it along to me by e-mail, and I’ll post the best.

3 thoughts on “Plankton blooms sometimes offer dramatic visuals

  1. I have been noticing this orange plankton bloom in the bays around Port Hardy (northern tip of Vancouver Island) for the last month but no-one here could identify it and Dept. of Fisheries seems unconcerned. It appears to be growing rapidly and invading all the eel grass beds here which may become a problem for herring. I have some photos if you are interested. I would appreciate further information if you have it. Jerry Davidson.

  2. Jerry,

    I’ve been asking around to get information on the Port Hardy plankton bloom. So far I have been unable to find anybody monitoring the bloom. Dave Mackas, a plankton biologist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, tells me the only regular monitoring is testing for shellfish tissue to measure the levels of toxin.

    He does speculate that the bloom was probably Noctiluca, which was the same kind affecting Hood Canal.

    “We had a big bloom in Saanich Inlet for about a week in the middle of July” he wrote. “It can adjust its internal salt composition and become buoyant, which concentrates them at the sea surface, and causes them to drift around with the wind and often accumulate at very high (and very visible) concentrations along downwind shorelines. (It also accumulates in tidal convergences). It is non-toxic; the only potential problem is oxygen depletion if the blooms dies, sinks, and decays in synchrony.”

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