No, it’s not a spill: Noctiluca ‘bloom,’ redden West Seattle water

We’ve received multiple photos today of an unsettling sight in West Seattle waters. The WSB’er who sent the photo above, showing Cormorant Cove Park off Beach Drive, wondered if it’s a spill. NO – not a spill. If you read WSB over the weekend, in fact, you probably already know it’s a bloom of microorganisms called noctiluca, according to Beach Drive resident Lura Ercolano, who answered a reader’s question over the weekend and shared a photo this morning:

Lura explains, “It is a beautiful, glowing, noctiluca bloom. They are single-celled creatures, and there may be more than normal this spring, or it might just be that we haven’t had big waves to disperse them.” We also received a Brace Point photo from Kathleen:

Here’s more information. Experts say noctiluca is NOT TOXIC so while you might just decide to keep away from it, you don’t have to. (Our archives show that something similar turned up in summer 2008.)

8:57 PM UPDATE: The Kitsap Sun reports that the state did a flyover this morning to take a look at the bloom.

7 Replies to "No, it's not a spill: Noctiluca 'bloom,' redden West Seattle water"

  • SudsyMaggie June 20, 2011 (1:23 pm)

    Here is a handy website with an interactive map from the WA State Dept of Health (geared toward harvesting shellfish but interesting and informative, nonetheless):

  • laeti June 20, 2011 (2:01 pm)

    Thanks for the info! I was worried this was toxic when I saw it from my window this morning. Glad it’s not :)

  • clark5080 June 20, 2011 (4:48 pm)

    Huge bloom of it at Lincoln Park also

    • WSB June 20, 2011 (5:18 pm)

      I am looking forward to seeing if it’s really luminescent after dark – as suggested by some of the background I looked up!

  • J June 20, 2011 (5:52 pm)

    This morning I saw this ‘bloom’ stretch in a line just off shore from Brace point all the way down to Seahurst Park in Burien.
    It is still out there, just more dispersed now.

    Anyone know if there is a way to tell the difference between a toxic red tide and a non-toxic red tide/noctiluca bloom?

  • lk June 23, 2011 (5:19 pm)

    Do pass on if it is the bioluminescent type. I love one of its common names — “sea sparkle.”

  • Guila July 12, 2011 (9:10 pm)

    Hi! I swam today and yesterday in the Sound, both close to Alki and at Lincoln Park. I ran into this amber/brown stuff both times. I freaked out, as it flowed into my swimsuit and I couldn’t seem to get out of its stream. It feels really silky, almost oily. I am so glad to know it’s non-toxic, as I can’t help swallowing a bit of water as I swim.

    Another open water swimming adventure!

Sorry, comment time is over.