CeNCOOS Response to Monterey Bay Algal Bloom 2007

Timeline of Monterey Bay Physical and Biological Events

From September-November 2007, Monterey Bay had a number of algal blooms. Each of these blooms were dominated by a type of dinoflagellate, but not necessarily the same dinoflagellate and were considered different events. The most recent bloom was dominated by Akashiwo sanguinea and Ceratium species. There were very low or no concentrations of Cochlodinium, which can cause fish and shellfish kills (but is not toxic to humans).

An early red tide event in September, dominated by Cochlodinium, did cause a major mortality event in shellfish, but was not reported by the media. However, there were no toxins associated with the bloom that began in early November.

Despite these scientific findings, Santa Cruz County Enviromental Health Service had received several complaints about illnesses apparently associated with swimming or surfing in red tide affected areas of ocean (see link below).

The red tide event is believed responsible for creating a layer of surface foam that has led to over 750 sickened and dead seabird appearing on Santa Cruz and Monterey County beaches in November. Santa Cruz CDFG isolated the proteins found on the injured seabird feathers as produced by algal blooms. The foam apparently coated the feathers of these birds and causes death by hypothermia. Area activitists and CDFG employees helped clean and rehabilitate these injured animals.

A group of interested parties (CeNCOOS, local scientists and resource managers) met in December 2007 at MBARI to discuss this issue. The group agreed that the foam that harmed seabirds was likely a product of the red tide. What caused the red tide event remained uncertain at that time, but representatives at this meeting agreed to look into the source and movement of nutrients in the system that usually generate the blooms. View the meeting notes.

This group reconvened in mid-April 2008 to discuss the matter further. That meeting determined that the foam layer that likely caused the removal of natural oils from bird feathers (causing deaths and beach strandings) was likely a massive layer of dead Akashiwo sanguinea cells that made up the algal bloom. Evidence from satellites indicates that the bloom may have begun after a nutrient pulse from the Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing following a rain storm in early October 2007.

Further Information

Report Injured/Dead Seabirds found on area beaches:
CDFG-MWVCRC, Santa Cruz (831) 469-1719 or Native Animal Rescue (831) 462-0726

For more information contact CeNCOOS (CeNCOOS_Communications@mbari.org).

Monterey Bay Bloom Events
 Image by Raphael Kudela (UCSC).

An image compiling algal bloom satellite images showing areas of high density (outlined in red), current vectors (arrows) and bird strandings (colored circles). This work was a coordinated effort by CeNCOOS, UCSC, MBARI, CDFG and COCMP.

Satellite image of bloom
Image by Raphael Kudela (UCSC).

A satellite image displaying chlorophyll fluorescence as an indication of phytoplankton biomass. Areas of high fluorescence (yellow to red) mark areas where red tide symptoms were observed (11/14/2007).

Photo of algal bloom
Image by Dave Jessup (CDFG).

Foam associated with the red tide event in Monterey Bay (11/11/2007).

Impacts of Algal Bloom
Image from Santa Cruz Sentinel.

A western grebe is cleaned with soap by volunteers at Santa Cruz CDFG.