OLYMPIA – A large red bloom in Puget Sound is harmless, scientists from the Department of Ecology's marine monitoring program say.
They say the bloom that extends from Kingston to Des Moines and across the Central Basin from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is not the so-called "red tide" that refers to paralytic shellfish poisoning.
They have collected water samples they predict will confirm that the bloom is Noctiluca, a harmless single-celled micro-organism that occurs normally at this time of year. It gets its red color from the phytoplankton it eats.
This type of bloom shows up as large, red-brown, even orange "tomato-soup-like" streaks along current and tidal convergence lines, said Dr. Christopher Krembs of Ecology's marine monitoring program.
Krembs said the bloom is also accumulating along shores and beaches.
"We are reasonably certain this is Noctiluca, so there is no public health threat," Krembs said. "As the sun warms the water, the water stratifies, holding the tiny plankton near the surface where they flourish."
Ecology has received numerous inquiries from the public who suspect an oil or paint spill.
If you see red, brown or orange colored water in Puget Sound, it's likely this bloom. But Ecology encourages people to report any suspected pollution in the water.
If you see an algae bloom in fresh water, be very careful. It could be a toxic algae bloom that is poisonous to humans and animals.