Does the water look red? (Day 228)

 Discussions about the red tide continue to abound on all of my open water swimming groups. Should we swim? Shouldn’t we? 

My reading last night led me to believe it’s mostly okay to swim in. The particular algae spreading across the bay is called heterosigma akashiwo and, unless there is a strong odor, distinct discoloration, or thick layers of foam, scum, or algae on the surface, immersion in water where this algal is present isn’t especially dangerous to humans. At worst, eye or skin irritation could occur. In greater numbers, harmful algal blooms can cause respiratory problems, but we don’t seem to have that much growth around here (at least not yet). Here’s a picture from a San Francisco Examiner article yesterday:

Photo by Damon Tighe

Harmful algal blooms are a much bigger problem for marine life than for human swimmers (and for humans ingesting seafood). When concentrations of heterosigma akashiwo are high enough they can produce toxins that kill fish and other marine life and once an area is choked with algae, it can become a deadzone for marine wildlife. 

In any case, I decided to swim at the Albany Bulb. A good group of 8 o’clock swimmers was there and the 7 o’clock swimmers who were just getting out, reported nothing amiss. Any lingering doubts I might have had were soon rendered moot because it took all of my strength and focus to keep up with the swimming pack. Unlike my chatty gang, the 8 o’clock swimmers put their heads down and swim. So I did, too. It felt great. 

At some points, though, I couldn’t help wondering as I was motoring along: does this water look red? Honestly, I think it did have a muddy red tinge and though I didn’t check the temperature, I felt hot while swimming. I can’t imagine the heat we are having is going to improve matters.

All told, it’s a pretty depressing turn of events. Increased harmful algae blooms are another indication of climate change wreaking havoc on our planet. 

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