The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation over the past week has been monitoring the spread and extent of a Harmful Algal Bloom currently ongoing in the Cole Bay Corner section of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people and wildlife.
“Over the past week we have noticed an increase in harmful algae in sections of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, in particular in the Cole Bay Corner section of the Lagoon. It started out small but unfortunately over the past few days we have noticed an increase in the extent of the bloom,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
Although there have not been any signs of fish kills or human impacts yet, the Foundation is monitoring the situation closely considering the potential for harmful effects caused by the bloom; “right now we hope that the conditions will stabilize which will allow the bloom to dissipate. However, considering the potential for harmful impacts we will be keeping a close eye on the situation,” continued Bervoets.
Harmful Algal Blooms occurs when nutrients (mainly phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon) from sources such as sewage and wastewater ‘overfeeds’ the algae that exist normally in the environment, causing the algae to bloom. “Unfortunately this is an example of poor water quality leading into a wider issue within our environment. In addition to this bloom we are also struggling with the health of our coral both on the reefs and within our coral nursery. This issue highlights the need for addressing our wastewater management on the island,” concluded Bervoets.
Photos: Algal bloom within the Simpson Bay Lagoon.