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Hong Kong’s Deadly Red Tide Glows Blue With Marine Pollution

Waters off the coast of Hong Kong are glowing blue at night as a result of an algal bloom produced by Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as the Sea Sparkle, which exhibits bioluminescence when disturbed.

While the blue glow caused by the algal bloom may appear aesthetically pleasing to some, it’s also indicative of Hong Kong’s polluted waters as the Noctiluca’s increase in numbers coincides with an increase in nitrogen and phosphorous, both of which are contained within farm run-off which dumps directly into the waters off the coast of Hong Kong.

David Baker from the University of Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Science was quoted by Tech Times as having said that Hong Kong as well as the Pearl River Delta have a “big problem with wastewater” and that it is certainly a factor with these blooms.

Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta has a big problem with wastewater, and that is surely a factor with these plankton blooms

Noctiluca miliaris, as it’s also known, isn’t a threat to humans and is capable of co-existing with other flora and fauna in the waters on its own, however, it is a problem when its algal blooms grow to massive proportions as the algae overrun the waters, depriving other plants and animals in the waters of oxygen, Tech Times reported. Areas where the massive blooms occur eventually deplete enough oxygen to create dead zones where the water is no longer capable of sustaining marine life.

A report by Gizmodo Australia indicates that there’s more bad news, as the Noctiluca’s growth also results in the creation of a by-product, ammonia. In high concentrations, ammonia is thought to disturb local marine life inhabiting the contaminated waters.

Noctiluca scintillans are single-cell organisms which consume plankton and are eaten by other creatures in the water. Their algal blooms have been reported in various parts of the world where high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus have been detected. Both chemicals are typical of farm run-off, Tech Times reports.

University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye confirmed the culprit as she indicated that these types of “blooms are triggered by farm pollution,” Yahoo!7 News reported.

After viewing pictures of the glowing waters, Joyce wrote in an e-mail:

Those pictures are magnificent. It’s just extremely unfortunate that the mysterious and majestic blue hue is created by a Noctiluca

Joyce indicated that the problem was growing worldwide.

R. Eugene Turner, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, indicated that Noctiluca’s role as both predator as well as prey could eventually magnify the accumulation of algae toxins within the food chain.

What are your thoughts on marine pollution and the worldwide spread of the harmful but beautiful Sea Sparkle?

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