Brown sea slick off Plymouth is bloom of plankton not pollution
CITY marine scientists have moved to allay fears of pollution in Plymouth Sound and areas of the foreshore.
Over the past week brown scum has been reported in the sea by members of the public worried that it could be oil.
But scientists at the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) have analysed the bloom and found it is not pollution – it's plankton.
"Local residents may have noticed a brown scum that has enveloped the Plymouth shoreline in the past couple of days, and while it may not look very nice it is harmless and natural," said Gemma Brice, a plankton analyst at the SAHFOS.
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"The scum has been caused by microscopic, phytoplankton algae which has been in its spring bloom."
Phytoplankton are essentially the plants of the sea – they produce over 50 per cent of the world's oxygen and are very important for life on earth.
Given the right conditions the phytoplankton will grow to large numbers (known as a bloom), just like plants on land.
"The hot and sunny weather we have had the past few weeks in combination with nutrients in the water has given rise to a bloom," added Gemma.
Gemma said while the bloom is not toxic, it would not be very pleasant to swim in.
Bacteria will degrade down the bloom which gives off the unpleasant smell.