A Quick Guide to the Red Tide: Harmful Algae Blooms in the SF Bay
by Nicolette Beck, Philanthropic Advisor
You may have heard the news this summer of toxic red algae blooms in the SF Bay. You may have personally seen the effects: thousands and thousands of dead fish washing up on shores or floating limply in the water. You might also be wondering what is up and what we can do to help.
Algal blooms have their role in a healthy aquatic ecosystem, but lately, there has been an overabundance of one particular variety: Heterosigma akashiwo. It has been depleting oxygen in the water, causing fish and other sea life to suffocate and drown. The blooms also block out light from the water so the sea grass and other types of seaweed die as well.
Scientists believe that this overabundance is caused by excessive nutrients in the water, which primarily comes from our treated sewage. Other sources of nutrients that feed Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can be artificial fertilizers for agriculture and landscaping.
The good news is that the Red Tide has subsided in the SF Bay– for now. The bad news is that it will happen again if we don’t change our ways, and the impacts on sea life will continue to be devastating.
We looked into it, and the best solution is for the SF Bay Area to invest in water treatment facilities to remove these excessive nutrients from our wastewater.
Ways to help:
Write to your political officials, urging them to invest in water treatment facilities. There is a pre-written letter at this link here to write to the SF officials: https://baykeeper.org/actionalert/algalbloom
Sign this letter to the SF Bay Regional Quality Control Board, urging them to invest in more nutrient pollution research and to reduce such pollution. https://baykeeper.org/action-alert/algae-blooms-new-normal
You could also donate to the following charities:
Bay Keeper - www.baykeeper.org
Bay Keeper is an environmental charity that works to protect the SF Bay and its watershed. They
use research, litigation, advocacy, and policy work to stop polluters and protect the SF Bay’s
ecosystem. From their website: “Baykeeper uses science, advocacy, and law to hold polluters
accountable and stop destructive activities in San Francisco Bay and throughout its watershed.”
EarthJustice - www.earthjustice.org
EarthJustice is a charity made of lawyers who sue and advocate on behalf of the Earth. Though not
specific to the SF Bay area, EarthJustice is currently suing the EPA for not doing enough to stop
Harmful Algal Blooms in Florida, leading to thousands of manatee deaths as well as the deaths of
other sea life. If they win it will have implications for the EPA’s responsibility in preventing this all
around the country. This is a great organization to support. About their lawsuit here:
San Francisco Estuary Institute - https://www.sfei.org
SFEI is currently doing the research for the The SF Water Board to learn more about the harmful
algal blooms. From their website: “The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) is one of California’s
premier aquatic and ecosystem science institutes. Our mission: provide scientific support and tools
for decision-making and communication through collaborative efforts. We provide independent
science to assess and improve the health of the waters, wetlands, wildlife and landscapes of San
Francisco Bay, the California Delta and beyond. SFEI’s 50 scientists and experts provide data,
technology and tools that empower government, civic and business leaders to create cost-effective
solutions for complex environmental issues--from cleaner water and sustainable communities to
climate change. We have three primary programs: Clean Water, Resilient Landscapes, and