Algal blooms the cause of dirty brown stripes in ocean

Algal blooms are common in the coastal waters of the Gladstone region at this time of year.
Algal blooms are common in the coastal waters of the Gladstone region at this time of year. Rob Black

IS it first-hand evidence of global warming - or are the dirty brown stripes we are seeing on the ocean's surface just like we always get at this time of year?

Some people believe it is coral spawn, but in fact it is simply the algal blooms we tend to get in Queensland's coastal and estuarine waters between August and December.

In fact these blooms were recorded by Captain Cook during his expeditions of the 1770s.

They can produce a pretty foul smell but are not caused by pollution, rather a rapid growth due to calm weather and rapidly increasing sea temperatures at this time of the year.

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources said there are a number of algal species which can give rise to a coastal bloom such as the Gladstone region is experiencing.

Some are toxic, while others are more of a nuisance value.

Harmful algal blooms can affect recreational and commercial activities, including fishing, diving and swimming.

The most common is Trichodesmium.

"Blooms of Trichodesmium have been reported along the entire Queensland coastline with suggestion that the intensity and frequency of blooms in recent years is increasing,'' a DNR spokesman said.

And this year the turtles are early too in their mating and nesting. Many bird species have also come early to nest.

And some fish species are heading south to seek cooler sea temperatures - even the deadly Irukandji jellyfish is migrating further south along the Queensland coast.

Some have turned up as far south as Fraser Island and Hervey Bay.

Irukandji researcher Shannon Klein from Griffith University said we could see increased incidences of adult jellyfish coming down on the east Australian current.

Topics:  environment global warming oceans

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