People around the country are worried about red tides after photos and video from the coast of Florida have gone viral.
The good news is that there’s very little danger of a red tide making its way to the North Carolina coast. That hasn’t happened in more than 30 years. But the bad news is that Coastal Carolina has its own dangerous algae to worry about.
The red tides that have been killing marine life in Florida are a kind of algal bloom.
Nathan Hall, from the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences said, “as these algal blooms die, the bacteria that break down the algal blooms consume oxygen in that process. So you could have low dissolved oxygen which can lead to things like fish kills.”
North Carolina hasn’t seen a red tide since 1987, said NOAA Ecologist Wayne Litaker.
“It’s a very rare event,” said Litaker, “It just happened that everything was right for the blooms to come in off the Gulf Stream and the conditions just happened to be right for them to bloom here. So we don’t anticipate that being an occurrence but once every fifty or sixty years at the most.”
However, Coastal Carolina does have blue-green algal blooms.
“These are the ones,” said Litakler, “that form the really dense green scums on the estuaries and ponds and lakes. They interfere with boating and fishing and they cause really dense scums that can reduce property values and cause odors that are generally unpleasant.”
These blooms are created when nutrients run off into the water.
“We make these algal blooms, said Hall, “a lot more frequent and a lot more severe by adding nutrients, which are fertilizers like nitrogen and and phosphorus predominantly, to the water.”
We can help prevent these blooms by not fertilizing our yards and reducing runoff into our waterways.
Every coastal state in the U.S. has reported a red tide at some point in time. But for now, there’s no sign that our waters are at risk for that particular bloom.