Blue glowing sea charms Chennai but experts fear it may not be good news
Coastal welfare activists and researchers fear the sea sparkles could be due to changes in the ocean ecosystem and may not be a welcome phenomenon.Updated: Aug 20, 2019 00:42 IST
In a rare occurrence, beaches near the East Coast Road of Chennai emitted a bluish glowing light on Sunday night leaving the locals surprised and coastal welfare activists apprehensive. The scientists, however, are curious to find out the exact reason for this bluish glow while striking a note of caution.
The phenomenon of the glowing tides with bluish light was first observed by passersby at Thiruvanmiyur, Palavakkam and Injambakkam beaches and quickly spread to social websites from there, triggering discussion on the bioluminescence spectacle.
Coastal welfare activists and researchers fear the sea sparkles could be due to changes in the ocean ecosystem and may not be a welcome phenomenon.
Pooja Kumar from Chennai’s Coastal Resource Center feels ocean warming or oxygen deficiency could be one of the possible causes.
“This is a sign of a possibly unhealthy ocean. It could be due to excess release of ammonia and lack of oxygen. These microscopic planktons usually bloom in oxygen deficit zones and likely indicate potentially high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which is usually bad news for the larger marine food web. Ocean warming could also be the reason for this. Studies alone could reveal further details about this bioluminescence” said Pooja Kumar.
It may not be a big risk factor if the fishes in the area were not dying, she added.
National Center for Coastal Research (NCCR) and Tamil Nadu Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University, widely known as TNFU are also studying the causes.
P Jawahar, Senior Professor, TNFU told HT that they have to identify whether it was the doing of a marine planktonic species called Noctiluca scintillans or if it was Photoluminescence from a vibrio kind of bacteria that is typically found in salt water.
“The inflow load of water could be high into the sea due to rains in the past 4 days, dissolving Ammonium, Potassium into the Bay of Bengal and bringing down the oxygen level leading to the glowing. We will only know after getting test result from the samples,” said Jawahar.
Jawahar added that sea water glowing due to Photoluminescence was also reported from Mandapam coast in Rameswaram five years ago. “It had lasted for five days,” he told HT.
That’s not all; the TNFU professor said that presence of blue-green algae trichomes often created red glitters in the Bay of Bengal at Thiruchendur beach near Thoothukkudi. It was seen as recently as previous year.
Responding to the question if it would harm humans, Jawahar, said, “If it is a bacterial bloom, it will irritate human skin.”
Former director (acting), Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, NGK Pillai also agreed that the glowing was likely due to Noctiluca scintillans or Photoluminescence.
Thiruvanmiyur residents said they had seen thousands of dead fishes across one kilometer on the coastline.
“Though the bioluminescence is making people happy, we worry that thousands of fishes were found dead in our coastline last week. So, the scientist should look into this issue,” said R Srinivasan, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur.
First Published: Aug 20, 2019 00:41 IST