Algae creates red sea on NSW coast

Last updated 00:05 28/11/2012
IN BLOOM: A girl inspects the water at Clovelly Beach in Sydney.

IN BLOOM: A girl inspects the water at Clovelly Beach in Sydney.

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The flags are back up at Bondi Beach late yesterday, but thick red algal blooms were continuing to appear at beaches across Sydney's east.

A bloom was first spotted at Bondi at 6.30am (8.30am NZT) on Tuesday,  with subsequent outbreaks popping up at Clovelly Beach and Gordons  Bay later in the day.

On the New South Wales central coast, blooms were spotted off Wamberal,  Copacabana, Terrigal, Avoca and North Avoca beaches at around 9.30am but dispersed shortly after, a Gosford City Council  spokesperson said.

No beaches were closed on the central coast.

While Gordons Bay and Clovelly, which resembled tomato juice on Tuesday afternoon, remain closed, Bondi Beach has reopened.

''With the red algae leaving and mostly harmless, Bondi is  putting the flags back up again. Enjoy!'' Beachwatch wrote on  Twitter.

The bloom has been identified as Noctiluca scintillans, is  caused by an upwelling of colder nutrient-rich water.

Also called ''red tide'' or ''fire in the sea'', the algae is  non-toxic but contains high ammonia levels that can cause minor  skin irritation if you swim in it, a NSW Office of Water spokesman said.

The blooms were a common natural phenomena and more  likely to occur in spring and autumn when there were higher water  temperatures and more movement in ocean currents, he said.

''(It) can also often be seen after rainfall events in the  vicinity of river mouths.''

At night, the algae can appear phosphorescent.

Waverley head lifeguard Bruce Hopkins said the bloom had ''quite  a fishy smell to it'', had a ''reddy-purple'' tinge and sits on the  surface like oil sheen.

''It can irritate some people's skin but generally not much more  than that,'' he said.

Red algae was uncommon but not unheard of at Bondi, Hopkins added.

People were advised to avoid swimming in discoloured water.

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