Fluorescent sea sparkles, dubbed “blue tears,” that glow around the Matsu Islands of Lienchiang County are not caused by toxic algae and are not a sign of environmental deterioration, a National Taiwan Ocean University professor said on Sunday, challenging a recent study.
Chiang Kuo-ping (蔣國平) said that it cannot be established that the “blue tears” along Matsu’s beaches are associated with toxic algae because they do not drain oxygen from the surrounding waters and kill marine life in the process as stated in the study.
He said the single-celled Noctiluca scintillans, also known as dinoflagellates or sea sparkles, that generate the bioluminescence described as blue tears when disturbed, are non-toxic heterotrophs — organisms that cannot produce their own nutrients.
Photo courtesy of the Lienchiang County Government
In coastal ecosystems, they replace copepods — small crustaceans commonly found in aquatic communities — as the main consumers of phytoplankton and play the role of a “terminator” of single-cell algae called diatoms, which Chiang described as a normal phenomenon in marine ecosystems.
The toxic algae argument does not hold water along the coastlines of the Matsu Islands because the sea sparkles have not starved the water of oxygen or led to the death of marine life, he said.
The US study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters was conducted by people with expertise in studying satellite data and images rather by than ecological experts, he said.
The study by Hu Chuanmin, a professor of optical oceanography at the University of South Florida, was extensively covered by local media.
It argued that sea sparkles have become more abundant in recent years based on satellite images that have tracked their movement.
The study observed that from 2000 to 2003 when the Three Gorges Dam was being built on the Yangtze River and there was little water flow, there was only a small distribution of blue tears, but since construction had been completed and the water flow was restored to normal, the blue tears had steadily expanded.
While the reason for that cannot be determined for certain at present, it is likely related to the major release of pollution and agricultural runoff of nutrients from the Yangtze River into the East China Sea, the study said.
Explaining the study to the Live Science Web site, Hu said the sea sparkles are not toxic themselves, but when they eat, they usually choose toxic algae and in the process release ammonia and other chemicals that poison the water around them.
They also breathe oxygen until there is none left in the surrounding waters, making their growing numbers particularly troublesome, Hu was cited as saying by Live Science.
“The oxygen in the water is so low that many animals die,” he was quoted as saying.
HASTY PLAN: Instructors must teach in a language they are not fluent in, while students are forced to learn new subjects in a tongue they do not know, teachers said The National Federation of Teachers Unions (NFTU) yesterday urged the government to thoroughly review its Bilingual 2030 policy, saying it has caused problems in elementary and high schools, and might affect the quality of education in other subjects. The government on March 28 changed its original “Bilingual Nation 2030” plan to the “Bilingual 2030” plan, no longer aiming to turn Taiwan into a Mandarin-English bilingual nation by 2030, NFTU president Hou Chun-liang (侯俊良) told a news conference in Taipei. Despite the change, the policy’s budget, resources and most of its content remain the same, causing unusual scenes on campuses, he said. Cheng Chi-yi
‘STILL RISKY’: The quarantine requirement for arrivals cannot be lifted, as COVID-19 cases have been rising in Europe and the US, the minister of health and welfare said The government might consider dropping a negative COVID-19 test result requirement for travelers from low-risk countries, but lifting the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers is still risky, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The CECC on Monday said it does not plan to further loosen border controls soon. National Taiwan University Children’s Hospital superintendent Huang Li-min (黃立民) said the “3+4” quarantine policy separates inbound travelers from family members for only three days, which is not enough to block the spread of the virus, so the government might consider changing it to a “0+7” policy. He also said that it might
Taiwanese singer Miu Chu (朱俐靜) passed away over the weekend after a battle with breast cancer, her family announced yesterday. She was 40 years old. The family wrote on Chu’s Facebook fan page that she died peacefully. “Thank you all for your concern. Miu, who was always full of laughter and always brought people positive energy with her music, left us peacefully on July 3,” the family said. The family asked for privacy at this time and said that details of a memorial service would be announced later. Chu was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. She was an alumna of the TV reality show
VIRUS TRACES: Macau is not following international standards, with the WHO saying that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted on packaging, the Council of Agriculture said Macau on Saturday placed a ban on mango imports from a Taiwanese company after traces of the COVID-19 virus were allegedly detected in a shipment, the second such ban in two days. The Macau Municipal Affairs Bureau placed a one-week suspension on the unnamed company’s imports after samples collected from external packaging of its products allegedly tested positive for the nucleic acid of SARS-CoV-2. The batches of mangoes from which the samples were collected have been destroyed, the bureau said, adding that the ban is “aimed at protecting Macau residents instead of targeting specific countries or regions.” However, there is “currently no evidence