Algae bloom
Photo by CTV News

Massive algae bloom on B.C. coast can be seen from space

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The algae bloom off the coast of British Columbia may be visible from space, but according to experts, that shouldn’t stop you from going for a dip.

The water that flows through the Strait of Georgia, between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, turned a light shade of green at the beginning of August and quickly intensified. It’s now a bright, almost fluorescent green. So bright, in fact, that it can be seen from space.

This animation, which shows the water’s change in colour from August 11 to 22, was captured by NASA satellites.

Photo by NASA Worldview

According to reports, the change in colour is due to an increase in coccolithophorids, a micro-algae with tiny calcium-carbonate scales that reflect the light and give the water a chalky look.

“It almost sort of looks like it’s Caribbean water, it looks a lot warmer than it would be,” Tom Steakhouse, a tour guide for West Vancouver’s Sewell’s Marina, told CTV News.

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Nicky Haigh, with the University of Vancouver Island’s Harmful Algae Monitoring Program, agrees that this is an unusual bloom to see in the Strait.

“We’re not really sure why they’re blooming in this area,” Haigh said. But it’s not because of the sunny, warm weather the area’s experienced this summer. Instead, she thinks it could be due to ocean acidification, which is brought on by climate change.

The good news is, the bloom isn’t as harmful as it may look. Although it resembles a toxic algae bloom that tainted local seafood and temporarily shut down fisheries last year, it’s very different.

“It’s not a toxic species. It actually feels pretty nice in the water because it’s almost like water softener,” Haigh told Global News. “We’re all going to come out of the water looking just that much younger,” she joked.

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