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‘Glistening ‘blue tide’ along Mumbai’

  • Category
    Geography
  • Published
    1st Dec, 2020

The tide that produces a fluorescent blue hue—bioluminescence—made an appearance on Juhu beach in Mumbai and Devgad beach in Sindhudurg along Maharashtra’s coastline.

Context

The tide that produces a fluorescent blue hue—bioluminescence—made an appearance on Juhu beach in Mumbai and Devgad beach in Sindhudurg along Maharashtra’s coastline.

About

  • The blue hue, also known as bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism.
  • The natural phenomenon is characterized by the emission of light produced by phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants), commonly known as dinoflagellates.
  • The light is produced through a series of chemical reactions due to luciferase (oxidative enzymes)
  • Bioluminescence has been an annual occurrence along the west coast since 2016 during the months of November and December.

Factors responsible for its occurrence

  • The main factors for its occurrence could be eutrophication – the reduction of oxygen in the water – which makes the phytoplanktons very dominant.
  • High temperature, high quantity of organic material such as sewage and effluents and increased turbulence/ wave action of the water could be the cause of this bioluminescence.
  • Apart from man-made causes, the adverse impact of climate change leading to increased seawater temperature could play a major role in such a phenomenon.

Why it is dangerous?

  • The fluorescent blue hue may also be a signal of danger.
  • Many of the species in this group are toxic. If dinoflagellates reproduce rapidly, they may cause so-called ‘red tides’. 
  • During this period all the animals (mollusks, fish, etc.) that feed on dinoflagellates also become toxic due to the accumulation of high amounts of toxins from dinoflagellates. 
  • It is dangerous to eat such sea animals because the toxins that are contained in them may have various unpleasant effects: some merely irritate the bowel and cause food poisoning, whereas others, being neurotoxins, may even have an effect on memory. 
  • Some species, such as the sea sparkle (Noctiluca scintillans) are not as toxic but may have other unpleasant effects.  

Which other countries observe the same phenomenon?

  • Bioluminescence has been observed across India’s coast as well as the coastline of many beaches in the world such as Maldives, Vietnam, Indonesia, USA, Australia and many other countries.

Is there any similar phenomenon?

  • Similar to the blue tide, there exists another such phenomenon called red tide or harmful algal blooms that emits red light.
  • It is rare occurrence caused when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.
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