West Seattle ‘red’ water followup: What the state says

(Monday photo courtesy GW)
The state Ecology Department is talking today about the reddish “bloom” seen in some Puget Sound waters, including ours (here’s yesterday’s WSB report/photos). From their news release (we’ve added an aerial photo they posted to Flickr):

Scientists from the Department of Ecology’s marine monitoring program in a routine overflight of Puget Sound have spotted an extensive reddish bloom in Puget Sound that they suspect is harmless.

It is not the so-called “red tide” that refers to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The bloom extends from Kingston to Des Moines, and across the Central Basin from Seattle to Bainbridge Island.

Today, they collected water samples they predict will confirm that the bloom is Noctiluca (pronounced “nock-ti-lukah”), a harmless single-celled micro-organism that bioluminesces and occurs normally at this time of year. This kind of plankton does not photosynthesize, but gets its red color from the phytoplankton it eats, a type of nutrition called heterotrophy.

This type of bloom shows up as large, red-brown, even orange “tomato-soup-like” streaks along current and tidal convergence lines, according to Dr. Christopher Krembs of Ecology’s marine monitoring program.

Krembs said the bloom is also accumulating along shores and beaches.

“We are reasonably certain this is Noctiluca, so there is no public health threat,” Krembs said. “As the sun warms the water, the water stratifies, holding the tiny plankton near the surface where they flourish.” …

10 Replies to "West Seattle 'red' water followup: What the state says"

  • Alex June 21, 2011 (2:45 pm)

    Harmless or not, something out of the ordinary is causing this. What is it?

  • JB June 21, 2011 (2:50 pm)

    Oooohhhh, bioluminescence! Time for some night time kayaking around Vashon. In CA, there are a few varieties that really light up when they get disturbed. It’s pretty amazing, especially on a dark night like the moonless ones we have coming up. Not sure if this species behaves the same way, but I’d say it’s worth finding out.

    • WSB June 21, 2011 (2:57 pm)

      Let me know if you see anything. Last night after midnight, I went down to Beach Drive to look for any sign of a glow, but the street lights just overpower everything, so I’d imagine you really do need to be out on the water, away from all that – TR

  • cj June 21, 2011 (3:41 pm)

    Ok so why is it getting bigger? I have never seen it before.

  • kathleen June 21, 2011 (4:00 pm)

    It may be harmless, but, I don’t see one single seagull, duck, or anything else swimming in it.

  • April June 21, 2011 (4:01 pm)

    Do you know if it’s supposed to go away soon? Harmless or not, it does change the appearance and ecosystem of our water. I wouldn’t want to go swimming in it… or even dip my toes in that. Uh, well, now, hold up… maybe it can stay if it will keep the tourists away from alki. :)

  • AJP June 21, 2011 (4:58 pm)

    Often you have to disturb the water to get the glow to happen. I remember being able to do that at Golden Gardens a few times during the summer.

  • Paul June 21, 2011 (6:00 pm)

    more proof that aliens exist

  • miws June 21, 2011 (7:17 pm)

    It may be harmless, but, I don’t see one single seagull, duck, or anything else swimming in it.


    Well obviously they don’t read WSB, otherwise they’d know it’s harmless. ;)



  • Paul June 22, 2011 (6:30 pm)

    nice day for a swim!

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