Algae-Fighting Armada Trawls the Coast of China

china algae cleanup photo

Image credit: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

Just two weeks ago, a massive, smelly, algae bloom broke out of the coast of China. In just a few days, the bloom blossomed into a cloud covering more than 120 square miles. Now, the same bloom has grown to cover more than 150 square miles.

China has dispatched an armada of 66 vessels, ten forklifts, and 168 people to collect the algae before it has a chance to decompose into a potentially toxic slime on the beach.A net has also been stretched offshore, but the algae continues its advance.

If collected quickly enough, the algae can be converted into natural fertilizers and animal feed but if allowed to grow unchecked, it can strip oxygen from the water and damage the coastal ecosystem.

Li Delin, the engineer in charge of the beach clearance, explained that "if the enteromorpha on the beach can't be cleared on time, it will rot and affect the ecosystem in the bay area. Also the smell will be really bad."

The "green tide" is caused by a buildup of nitrogen in the ocean—typically the result of industrial and agricultural runoff. Since the 1970s, green and red tides have become much more common.

Mao Yunxiang, a professor at the College of Marine Life, Ocean University of China, commented that "at a fundamental level, the way to deal with this should be to combat climate change and control pollution." He added, however, that in the meantime:

We should also consider the possibility that the green tide are inevitable so we should make use of them. The algae can clean water, and be harvested for animal feed and biofertiliser.

Read more about pollution in China:
China's Coast Under Siege By Massive Algae Slick
Pollution in China is Worse Than Ever, Citizens Say
In China, Pollution Causes Two Birth Defects a Minute: Official
China's Water Pollution Twice the Officially Listed Levels

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