Orange algal bloom streaks local waters

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An algae species called Noctiluca scintillans is making a splash on coastal waters, with a thick orange slick that can resemble oil paint creating a striking contrast to the dark green sea.

Elysha Gordon, shellfish sanitation program coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, confirmed the event is due to the nontoxic species and not of the type that can cause shellfish poisoning, commonly known as red tide.

“I’ve been receiving photos for the last week or two from Salt Spring and other places,” Gordon said, noting blooms have been seen from Powell River to Maple Bay.

Plankton specialist Nicky Haigh, who is based in Salt Spring and Nanaimo, runs the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program for the B.C. salmon farming industry through her company Microthalassia.

Haigh explained the bright orange algae appears following the spring diatom bloom, because it feeds on the diatoms. The timing can shift but tends to happen near the end of April or beginning of May. The bloom is visible both during the day and at night.

For more on this story, see the May 2, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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