Fun in the sun (and slime)
July 25th, 2011
10:44 AM ET

Thick, green algae covers 200 square miles of Yellow Sea

Almost 200 square miles (500 square kilometers) of the Yellow Sea off China are covered by a massive bloom of green algae, according to a report from China's Xinhua news service.

The bloom has spread to almost 7,400 square miles (19,050 square kilometers) in total and is expected to grow, Xinhua reported, citing the North China Sea Marine Forecasting Center of State Oceanic Administration.

The algae bloom threatens marine life as it sucks oxygen from the water although the algae itself is not poisonous, according to the Xinhua report.

Researchers don't know what causes the massive algae blooms, first seen in the Yellow Sea in 2007.

Tons of the green algae had to be removed in 2008 to make way for sailing events at the Summer Olympics.

"We don't know where it originated and why it's suddenly growing so rapidly," Bao Xianwen from the Qingdao-based Ocean University of China, told the China Daily earlier this month. "It must have something to do with the change in the environment, but we are not scientifically sure of the reasons."

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Filed under: China
soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. Joe

    All of you keyboard scientists are hilarious. Algae blooms add oxygen to the water!!! Perhaps the next phrase you should google or wikipedia is 'dead zone', and see just what algae blooms do.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martyr2

      Actually the decay of such blooms absorb oxygen from the water. Also there is a class of blooms called HABs or "Harmful Agal Blooms" which can also deplete oxygen from cellular respiration and bacterial degradation. There are of course some algae blooms which are just fine too.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jfek

      One word: Eutrophication. Try learning some science there Joe before you post next time.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • physnchips


      July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JL

      As it decomposes it will take all the available oxygen out. Realize the surface that gets light does produce oxygen during daylight but all the algae and plants below are using even more as they die off or are blocked from the light. Produces that nasty rotten egg anaerobic smell as the bloom progresses in time, not something you want to live next to.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tara

    Wouldn't eat the fish. hat “something,” .. Discover magazine just had an article on possible dangers of the byproducts of this algae "he now suspects, could be the environmental toxin beta-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA. This compound 
is produced by cyanobacteria, the blue-green algae that live in soil, lakes, and oceans. Cyanobacteria are consumed by fish and other aquatic creatures. Recent studies have found BMAA in seafood, suggesting that certain diets and locations may put people at particular risk. More worrisome, blooms of cyanobacteria are becoming increasingly common, fueling fears that their toxic by-product may be quietly fomenting an upsurge in ALS—and possibly other neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s as well."

    July 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • random scientist

      Cyanobacterial blooms can be harmful for various reasons, but this particular bloom is of green algae. Green algae is a plant, while cyanobacteria or "blue-green algae" is a bacteria. People call these blooms of aquatic photosynthetic organisms "algal blooms", but that's a really bad description because it's often not true algae (plants) that are responsible. The organisms responsible can be plants, protists, or bacteria.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Martin

    Hmm, why not scoop it up and use it as a slow release fertilizer?

    July 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fun in the Sun

      Its not like they are short on man power. Think of it as free resource! Cash in! Soylent Green does not have to be people!

      July 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anthalas

    "Um unless I miss something in Science class Algae Produce Oxygen and use photosynthesis."

    You're absolutely right, however when the algae dies it uses oxygen when it decomposes. This is the same issue that is causing impairment in both the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. At least in the U.S., its usually caused by excess nutrients from treated sewage and fertilizers.

    Regardless, a journalist should be able to explain an issue rather than just regurgitate a press release.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • random scientist

      Plants also utilize photosynthesis to convert solar energy to chemical energy, but the key is that they then use this chemical energy to do other things. We get the energy for metabolism from eating plants or animals, plants get it from making sugars and then metabolizing those. So plants both create oxygen and consume it. On average they do more production than consumption, stocking up on sugars and starches and some fats, but they do have the capacity to consume oxygen as well. A large amount of algae will place a burden on the dissolved oxygen in the water, and then when they die, as you pointed out, the decay of all of that biomass consumes a lot of oxygen.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Biologist

    Well, algae blooms need nitrogen to progress, so, examine how much fertilizer runoff has been going on since the Chinese have been changing their own ecology with unfetered bliss, and extensive ignorance. They completely have no clue about what effect ANYTHING has on their surroundig environment. This is why an environmental impact statement is necessary and an ongoing conservation department needs to be established and qualified to continually monitor the massive human growth. A little prudence will preserve your environment and prevent it's destruction.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pete

    Pollution => CO2. CO2 + Sun => Photosynthesis. Photosythnesis => algae production. Its nature's way. China is incredibly polluted.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don F.

    Thre Chineese government should clandestinely rumor that the algae is an aphrodesiac of significant power and let the market thake it from there.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KB

    Good Lord, why are they swimming in that?!?! I don't care if it's not poisonous!

    July 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Scott

    In response to a string of comments implying that algae should add oxygen to water rather than deprive it of oxygen, I submit the following. Yes, algae creates oxygen during photosynthesis, and yes, some of this oxygen is released into the water. However, floating algae primarily releases oxygen into the atmosphere. Futhermore, large blooms of floating algae actually create a hypoxic enviroment in the water by (1) establishing a phsyical barrier between the water and the atmosphere, (2) preventing sunlight from reaching oxygen-producing algae living beneath the surface, and (3) by creating an abundance of aerobic bacteria (which thrive on the algae as it decomposes). I sincerely hope this information helps move the discussion beyond skeptical comments questioning the merits of this report!

    July 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • random scientist

      Very good points.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |

    poop!!! poop!!! poop i say.....

    July 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark

    I insist, and my family agrees, to never buy anything to eat if it came from CHINA. The entire country is the most toxic wastedump on the planet. Life has no value, citizens have no rights. Peasants die by the thousands every day from toxic by-products of their mind-staggeringly huge industrial systems, but they will continue to suffer in silence with their birth defects and cancers in the name of PROFITS! Go China!!! Keep stuffing our Wall-Mart shelves!

    July 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marchosias

    They don't know the cause? Hello? Algae blooms have one very well known cause – huge amounts of nutrients usually in the form of sewage and/or "fertilizer." It means you don't have clean water. A change in environment, yes – probably dumping of sewage or other nitro-rich waste; due to "climate-change," not likely.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David Garcia

    I wonder if it could be skimmed, strained, and used as either: animal feed, fertilizer, compost/mulch, or something else? Algae does have a lot of uses, but it costs money to collect it. I wonder if the same skimmers used to pick up oil could possibly do this, or at least be modified? Just curious here. It's a nuisance, but there might be an upside.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      I would imagine that fishing boats equipped with small mesh nets would be able to do the trick; just a thought.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mikeh

    It comes from nitrogen and that comes from pollution. No need to research any further.
    This is one of the prices you will pay for pollution. It will get much worse.

    I have seen these. Under all that algae are dead fish, crabs, etc. There is no animal life in the water after a bloom like that. Now, if your within that 200 miles, you will need to fish out a bit further. Soon you will need to invade the coast line from a country that does no pollute like you do.

    If you visit china, you will see massive pollution like you have never seen before. They think they can do that and get away with it. (You cant get away with it!)

    July 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • physnchips

      Yep, it's true China is a very bad polluter. Who is second? None other than the good ol US of A.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoseMcB

      Yeah. I laughed when I read that. Anyone who has ever owned a pond knows exactly what that is. It's too much nutrient in the water. Algae is always present. It just doesn't flourish like that unless someone or something did a booboo. Usually a "someone". I'm guessing, especially given China's breath-takingly horrendous track record of massive health and environmental violations, some effluent plant or other kind of dump up coast is responsible. Scientists have no idea. Haha!

      July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • B=Dog

      You think that maybe you show up to the beach and you see it's covered with slimy green algae that MAYBE you take a pass.... but not these people 🙂

      July 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |

      I see the stupids are coming out in droves. Blame china for all the horrendous activities? Yes and I bet you love Exxon and BP and all the pollution its giving to the environment? What's that you're giving subsidiaries and taxpayer's money to them? You people must really be stupid

      July 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reed M

      Let's ban all Chinese made products to the US until their factories meet the same EPA standards our factories must meet. Wow if we did that then there would be no reason to send all our manufacturng and jobs to China. Then, maybe 15 million Americans would have a place to work again.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      Why do we pick on China's enviromental record when they are doing nothing but playing catch up to what the USA did when they were going through their own industrialization? Other developing countries should not have to play by rules that did not/does not apply to US. It is all bad for everyone but the US can't be the police of things they don't hold themselves accountable for in the first place

      July 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ed Lankford

    Make Bio-Diesel

    July 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruce Heinemann


      July 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
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