vancouver red tide
© Pete Cline @yvrnewsphotog
Throughout the week, several photos have been posted online of the Vancouver harbour. These were not ordinary pictures, as the waters looked bright red!

This is not the first time the waters in Vancouver have turned this vibrant blood red color and it is entirely due to an algae bloom.

The algae producing this phenomenon — Noctiluca scintillans — is erroneously known as "red tide". It is not to be confused with red tide poisoning in fish.

According to NOAA, red tide poisoning occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control while producing toxic effects bivalve shellfish and other marine mammals in extreme cases.

If these shellfish are eaten by humans, it can lead to serious and potentially fatal illnesses such as a "paralytic shellfish poisoning" and "amnesic shellfish poisoning."

Blooms like this can be caused by a number of things, including climate change, human activity or a combination of tides and temperatures.

Elysha Gordon, Canadian shellfish sanitation program coordinator with the DFO, explained that the colourful algae is not harmful to humans.

Blooms usually occur from May to September. In fact, this is not the first time this has happened in Vancouver. There are tons of pictures and videos online from previous years showing the eerie colour.

There is no clear answer as to how long this algae bloom will stick around in the Vancouver harbours and beaches, but as long as conditions remain ideal for the bloom, it will be staying.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has closed shellfish harvesting in many areas of B.C.'s South Coast because of the algae blooms, including from Bowen Island to Squamish and Vancouver's Burrard Inlet. The DFO also warns that cooking shellfish from a closed area does not destroy all biotoxins, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The Vancouver park board said Thursday that Vancouver Coastal Health had not advised the board of any water quality issues because of the algae bloom, so there are no signs posted at beaches.

But still I would advise not to drink too much of this water... And of course I wouldn't eat much shellfish right now. You will have plenty of time after this rare red tide algae bloom. Be careful!
Sources: [PAC, vancouversun, CBC, Huff, NOAA, narcity]