August 1, 2012

Red tides in the sunset

It's supposed to be "red sails in the sunset . . .  "  But the season of red tides (or algae blooms) in the Chesapeake Bay waters is beginning. The recent record high temps have been the main factor, but a mild winter didn't help.

Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will monitor the blooms of algae throughout the summer because some can be harmful to both marine life and humans if they generate toxic byproducts. Oysters are especially prone to damage. And the baby oyster spat had been thriving recently.

Red tides are actually dense blooms of tiny marine plants called dinoflagellates that contain reddish pigment.

If you see a patch of water that is red or mahogany and are concerned, contact Virginia's toll-free Harmful Algal Bloom hotline at (888) 238-6154.