Blue glow spotted at Chennai beach

Thousands of people were elated over bioluminescent waves being spotted along the Chennai coast. (Photo Twitter/Ajay Shyam (@ajaw_))

Beaches along the scenic East Coast Road near this metropolis glowed fluorescent blue on Sunday, mesmerising the evening walkers and sea lovers who gloated on the social media of having witnessed “historic event” by posting pictures and videos.

Though thousands of people were elated over bioluminescent waves being spotted along the Chennai coast, scientists and environmentalists say it may be a warning that all is not well in the ocean.

Photos and videos of waves turning blue swarmed the Internet, especially the micro-blogging site Twitter, with several of them elated over the sea sparkle and wonderful pictures that the “event” generated. The blue rays were noticed by people along the coast from Kovalam to Thiruvanmiyur on Sunday evening, but its effect was less in Elliot’s and Marina Beach in the city.

This is the first time that bioluminescent waves are being sighted on an Indian beach though it is quite common in several countries like the US.

Bioluminescence is caused by Noctiluca scintillans, a type of phytoplankton that convert their chemical energy into light energy when washed ashore. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates such as fireflies.

As there was jubilation among people, Pooja Kumar, Activist & Researcher at the Coastal Resource Centre here took to Twitter to explain what the blue rays meant.

“It is important to remember that this is a sign of a possibly unhealthy ocean. First, these microscopic plankton usually bloom in areas where there is oxygen deficit, and potentially high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus etc which is usually bad news for the larger marine food web,” she wrote.

These blooms have also been linked to massive fish kill, due to the ammonia released and they have also been implicated in the decline of fisheries in some places, Pooja Kumar explained. Other researches also said the impact of the blue rays on fish would be known only in the coming weeks or months.

Reputed publication, Journal Nature, had in an article said N. scintillans blooms could disrupt the traditional diatom-sustained food chain to the detriment of regional fisheries and long-term health of an ecosystem.

Pooja Kumar further said these blooms have also been linked to warming oceans due to climate change.

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