Mask-wearing tourists are flooding to a coastal town in China for an annual algal bloom known as ‘blue tears’.
The phenomenon is caused by bioluminescent plankton known as dinoflagellates, which experts say are damaging to the environment.
Footage taken on the beaches of Pingtan County, in East China’s Fujian Province, show tourists splashing through water during the algal bloom, creating waves of blue as the tiny sea creatures are disturbed.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China, images snapped on 21st March show visitors travelling in large numbers to the county’s Beijgang fishing port at the height of the bloom.
Images show them throwing stones and rocks into the water in order to create the otherwise stunning phenomenon known as ‘blue tears’ or ‘sea sparkles’.
Local fisherman Guo Hua, who took his boat out at night, told local media: “It’s hard to describe. It was like walking among stars.
“Everything was pitch-black. Only the sides of the boat were flashing blue. It was beautiful.”
According to reports, the algal bloom usually occurs between the warmer months of April and October. However, rising temperatures have brought forward the plankton bloom by a full month.
Studies have shown dinoflagellates plankton increasing in number year on year.
This is a concern as the creatures are toxic, posing a threat to local marine life such as turtles and fish when consumed. The yearly algal flourish also starves seawater of oxygen as they cover large sections.
While the cause of the plankton growth is unclear, they are likely fed by nutrient-rich river water flowing into the sea from agricultural farmland.
Another side effect of the tourist influx is reportedly the destruction of the fishing port’s embankment, which is being stripped of its rocks as visitors throw them into the sea to create waves.
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