Algae blooms have been known to suffocate marine wildlife and The New York Times reports that 8 million farmed salmon in northern Norway met this fate over the past week.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries estimated that persistent algae blooms caused the loss of 11,600 metric tons of salmon, worth more than $82 million. Though this amounts to less than 1% of the industry’s output last year, two privately owned family companies reported losing “about 80 to 90% of the salmon that we had this generation.”
Marine algae are usually not noticeable in normal concentrations, but when currents slow and water warms, the population of the phytoplankton can explode. Algae blooms are natural events, but they are not normally as concentrated as they have been in recent years and some scientists say climate change is exacerbating the blooms.
Salmon farms are especially threatened by algae blooms since these salmon don’t have the option to swim away from the algae the way other fish can. Unable to escape the blooms, salmon die from lack of oxygen when the phytoplankton comes in contact with their gills and a chemical reaction prevents them from breathing.
Norwegian salmon aren’t the only victim of algae blooms. In fact blooms across the U.S. are increasingly becoming a concern for organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources.
Hoosiers have seen the effects of algae blooms in bodies of water such as Griffy Lake and Geist Reservoir.
When it comes to blue-green algae in particular, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources warns Hoosiers to avoid coming into contact with the algae or swallowing contaminated water. Side effects from algae exposure can include rashes, eye irritation, nausea and stomach aches, among others.
The DNR recommends showering in warm soapy water after swimming in a natural body of water.