• Nicolette Beck

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:




  • 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:

https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2022/lawsuit-epa-must-protect-manatees-from-water-

pollution


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

Environmental Informatics.”







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