Wed, Apr 13, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Researchers to probe Matsu’s ‘Blue Tides’

By Yu Chao-fu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A “Blue Tide” is seen in the Beihai Tunnel in Lienchiang County’s Nangang Township in an undated photograph.

Photo: Yu Chao-fu, Taipei Times

Results of a study into the mysteries of the fabled bioluminescent Blue Tides on Matsu are to be published at the end of this summer, a marine biologist at National Taiwan Ocean University said.

Similar to the Red Tide in the Gulf of Mexico, the Blue Tide of Matsu — also known as “Blue Tears” — is a naturally occurring nighttime phenomenon of blue luminescence that is emitted in the sea near Matsu between April and August. The lights have become a major tourist attraction that drew 10,000 visitors to Lienchiang County last year.

In spite of the Blue Tide’s fame, marine biologists have not identified the species responsible for creating the luminescence, professor of marine environment and ecology Chiang Kuo-ping (蔣國平) said.

The most widespread hypothesis is that the Blue Tide is a glow emitted by planktons known as dinoflagellates, tiny crustaceans known as ostracods, or ostracods that have devoured glowing flagellate protists, Chiang said.

Chiang said university president Chang Ching-fong (張清風) is sending a research team to Matsu to study the phenomenon and solve the scientific puzzle of its origin.

Chiang’s team has also been tasked with coming up with a way to help predict the occurrence of the Blue Tide, which would help Lienchiang’s tourism industry.

The team is to begin sampling the Blue Tide by Monday, and then use the university’s labs to conduct DNA tests on the samples, with the goal of identifying the species causing the Blue Tide by the end of August, Chiang said.

Chiang said that he and his team visited the Lienchiang County Government early last month to secure an agreement to conduct its research.

The university plans to use the research findings to build an aquarium that recreates the Blue Tide within the facility during all seasons for tourists, he said.

Because the Min River in China’s Fujian Province empties into the sea near Matsu, Chou Wen-chen (周文成), one of Chiang’s colleagues, is to measure the seas near Matsu to establish the relationship between the ratio of freshwater from the river and saltwater, oceanic temperatures and the occurrence of the Blue Tide, Chiang said.

These observations are needed to understand the timing of the Blue Tide and to predict it accurately, he said.

The team has set up a water-sampling post and equipment in Nangan Township (南竿), and rented fishing boats, Chiang said, adding that the research would gradually increase in scale until it encompasses all of the Matsu islands.

Lienchiang County Commissioner Liu Tseng-ying (劉增應) said he is grateful to the university for its efforts and that he hopes that a scientific understanding of the Blue Tide would help the county’s economic development.

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