GROWING reasons to not head to the beach: “Red Tide” soup

Red tide at second beach. Photo Credit:Ray Dutra/ Middletown Patch

For many there is usually only one reason not to head to the beach, no swell. In Newport, RI there is literally a growing second reason not to head to the beach; locals refer to it as “RED TIDE”.

Actually, it is not a Red Tide, but Red Seaweed. It is increasingly problematic, and making our beaches less pleasurable. Especially beaches located in small coves where the shape of the coastline retains seaweed and prevents it from flushing out…Easton’s Beach/2nd Beach in Newport is highly susceptible to this seaweed.

The name sounds ominous, as if out of a bad movie. And once you have experienced the “red tide” as a swimmer, paddle boarder or surfer, it feels exactly like it came out of a bad movie. Its consistency is mostly composed of 1-3 cm red sponge like algae, and if you are really lucky there are little bugs in this red soup.

A look at Red Tide under the microscope.

The effects of this Red Tide soup affect tourism (As the seaweed washes up ashore it leaves an awful odor, not to mention the soupy swimming conditions). It also affects the local marine life, by growing over native seaweed, starving it of light and nutrients and damaging a habitat and food source for many marine animals.

Costal shape, water temperatures and breeze direction contribute to this phenomenon.  Other harmful ingredients found in this red soup are high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water that accelerate its growth.

Sailors for the Sea promotes a number of Clean Boating Practices.Following these practices can help reduce the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water, which in end can help reduce the amount of red seaweed.

Highlights from that list include:

  • Overboard Discharges: Do not discharge untreated sewage or blackwater in harbor areas or no-discharge zones.
  • Cleaning Products: Learn more about Green Cleaning Products that can be bought or made for your boat.
  • Bottom Paint: Switch to an environmentally friendly bottom paints.
  • Bottom Cleaning: Prevent bottom cleaning in harbors and sensitive areas. If you trailer your boat scrub your hull when leaving a body of water to prevent spread of invasive species
  • Gray Water Reduction: In order to reduce runoff of phosphates and nitrates into your waters use water only wash downs.  When you need a heavy duty scrub use only non-toxic cleaning products, which can alleviate the pressure on marine life.
  • Stormwater Pollution Prevention: Implement a storm water management system at your home or marina to reduce runoff.

To learn more about red tide, check out Science Daily's red tide page.

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