Red algae bloom the size of Derbyshire blows in

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The Independent Online

From 1,126 miles above the earth, an American satellite has captured a blanket of red algal bloom, covering more than 1,000 square miles, moving in on the south coast of England.

From 1,126 miles above the earth, an American satellite has captured a blanket of red algal bloom, covering more than 1,000 square miles, moving in on the south coast of England.

The pictures have traced the movement of the algae, which measures 16 nautical miles from east to west and 14 nautical miles from north to south, as it gathered off the south-west coast between Plymouth and the Isles of Scilly.

The bloom, which glows in the dark, was seen 10 days ago moving west towards the Atlantic. Although not harmful to humans, the bloom, made up of plankton, irritates fishes' gills but is not thought to be fatal.

Steve Groom, the head of the Remote Sensing Group at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said it was made up of a plankton called Gyrodinium auroleum, which caused the water to look red.

"When our vessel went out on Tuesday they also found another plankton called Noctiluca scintillans and it is believed that feeds on the gyrodinium.

"The noctiluca is a luminescent plankton and if you were sailing close to it at night you would see a glow." The plankton have appeared before as part of a natural cycle at sea.

"Last year we had a plankton bloom which was light. This year it is red. No one can say why the colour changes or why one bloom forms as opposed to another."

There is no connection to global warming or pollution. Mr Groom said this was one of the highest concentrates of bloom for years. "Theplankton is believed to be harmful to fish, but it is not toxic. It is affecting the light through the water, but whether this has an effect on the fish we do not know."

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