Visitors to the beach along the East Coast Road in Chennai were in for a pleasant surprise on Sunday evening as they spotted a magical blue glow on the beach. Pictures and videos of the bluish glow of the waves soon swarmed the internet with visitors gushing about the rare phenomenon. The sparkles on the sea were visible to people along the coast from Kovalam to Thiruvanmiyur in the city.
According to marine experts, the blue glow is known as Bioluminescence. The phenomenon is caused by Noctiluca scintillans, a type of phytoplankton that converts their chemical energy into light energy when washed ashore.
Similar to the sight of fireflies, bioluminescence is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish and sharks. An indicator of climate change, Bioluminescence is not good news for the marine health. Experts warn it could disrupt the long term health of an eco system.
Pooja Kumar, Activist & Researcher at the Coastal Resource Centre said, These blooms have also been linked to massive fish kill, due to the ammonia released. They have also been implicated in the decline of fisheries in some places!
Explaining about the rare occurrence, Pooja said it’s important to remember that bioluminiscense is a sign of a possibly unhealthy ocean. First, these microscopic plankton usually bloom in areas where there is oxygen deficit, and potentially high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus etc which is usually bad news for the larger marine food web.