Residents and beach-goers along the coast of Qingdao, China have experienced a massive influx of soft, non-toxic algae known as hutai every summer since 2007. To China State Official’s displeasure, this year’s algae bloom has proven to be the largest yet. It currently covers an area larger than the state of Massachusetts and measures more than double the size of those recorded in previous years, according to the State Oceanic Administration.
While algae growth naturally occurs during the summer months due to longer days and strong sunlight, blooms the size of those occurring annually in Qingdao are inexplicable. Though causes for the enormous bloom are uncertain, scientists suggest that the rampant growth of hutai, also known as enteromopha prolifera or “sea-lettuce”, may be connected to pollution in the form of fertilizer run-off from sites such as farms and golf courses. Some researchers also believe that it may derive from the increased presence of seaweed farms growing nori on large coastal rafts to the south of Qingdao. 

Officials in China have declared this most recent bloom to be a “large scale algae disaster.”  While the sea-lettuce is not harmful to humans, it stifles marine life and can begin to produce toxic hydrogen sulfide gas if left to rot in large quantities—not to mention a stinky egg smell. Since the algae began to appear in early June, hundreds of boats and bulldozers have been sent out to clean up the coastline waters. Alongside these endeavors, close to 2,500 individuals have been deployed with nets, pitchforks, and their own construction equipment in order to attempt to keep up with the seemingly constant flood of algae. As the unyielding algae continues to wash up on shore overnight, clean-up efforts persist and Qingdao’s tourism and aquatic farming industries continue to suffer.  
Sea Lettuce removal
Barber SURF RAKE removes large amounts of sea lettuce from a beach.
While the sheer volume of algae that washes up on the beach necessitates removal with large bulldozers and other large-scale equipment, beach cleaning machines can help by removing daily amounts of weed and refining the quality of sand once the algae bloom slows. A consistent cleaning program that employs tine-raking beach cleaners, like the Barber SURF RAKE, can help minimize the lasting effects of similar blooms. Additionally, these beach cleaning machines can completely remove more regular amounts of seaweed that arrive on beaches daily.


References: 

New York Times

Science World Report

La Times

Huffington Post
 
 
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