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By Amar Bains
What are “Red Tides?”
First of all, these anomalies aren’t always red. They come in a wide range of reds, greens, browns, purples and even clear. They are most commonly referred to as “Harmful Algae Blooms.” These occurrences are when multiple dangerous materials are dumped into waters and then certain species of plankton then grow. When these large clusters of phytoplankton form they suck oxygen out of the water, and in return release harmful toxins. These toxins pollute other marine life and then humans. They are dangerous to the environment as a whole and are very hard to clear.
These Blooms need very specific requirements to form. The waters need to be quite warm. A large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. Which is in fertilizers and pesticides that come through waterways from farms. On top of that, heavy chemicals and metals from factories contribute to the steep increase of HAB. In undeveloped countries, untreated waste is also a big factor. This has all lead up to the HAB’s spreading through out the world’s oceans and lakes.
Marine Life has also been affected. Bottom feeders such as shellfish, clams & mussels are directly harmed. These toxins travel through the food pyramid, entering all larger marine animals. The numbers of seals and fish have decreased. Very small fish are affected that are eaten by creatures that we ourselves eat. These animals are all affected by DAP (domoic acid poisoning). Which is only found in HAB’s. Marine plant life is also affected. As these clumps of HAB’s increase the thick layers on the surface block off much sunlight to plants, killing many of them.
Humans have also succumbed to the HAB’s toxins. People have been affected through tainted seafood. The most common form of sickness is shellfish poisoning. Also the consumption of other bottom feeders and fish can harm people. The most common cases are of PSP, ASP, DSP & NSP. All different forms of shellfish poisoning, some minor but others can be deadly. Also in largely populated areas where swimming is common, skin irritations have been reported. Also the inhalation of the plankton can cause respiratory problems. The use of motor boats with propellers can add to the number of cases.
The point of all of this is that Harmful Algae Blooms are a very real problem that has gone untreated for years, and now it’s worse then ever. The amount of affected organisms is off the charts. Many undeveloped countries' economies have also been affected with the decrease in edible seafood. HAB’s are now in every major bodies of water. Spreading throughout the world’s oceans it is a threat to all animals. One of the biggest problems is unawareness. This is a very controversial topic but I have never heard it before I started researching. Even though the phenomena of Red Tides has been happening for decades. And since then only increased.
"A General Review of Red Tides in the South China Sea." A General Review of Red Tides in the South China Sea. I.J. Hodgkiss and K.C. Ho. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.red tide.org/new_site/overview.htm>. "Contaminated Land." Edie.net. Edie Newsroom. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=13145>. "Red Tide - an Increasing Problem to the Marine Environment." Red Tide - an Increasing Problem to the Marine Environment. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://sol.oc.ntu.edu.tw/omisar/prjdoc/bam1.2/redtide12.html>. "'Red Tide' Linked to Nutrient Pollution." UPI. United Press. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2009/01/07/Red-tide-linked-to-nutrient-pollution/UPI60321231350271/>. Images, Photograph From AFP/Getty. "Thick Green Algae Chokes Beach." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 25 July 2011. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/07/pictures/110725-algae-china-beachesqingdao-swimming-science-environment-world/>.
Here is a very informative video of HAB’s