|Killer Algae Found off California
SAN DIEGO, California, July 6, 2000 (ENS)
- A mutant algae responsible for killing marine life throughout the
Mediterranean has now invaded the seas off San Diego. The ocean weed
smothers marine plants and animals, and releases a toxin that can destroy
the eggs of many smaller species.
Divers monitoring the growth of transplanted
eel grass discovered the algae on June 12 in a lagoon near the Cabrillo
Power Plant I. That plant pledged earlier this year to restore marine habitat
off of Carlsbad, California, about 20 miles north of San Diego.
"This algae eliminates kelp beds and poses
an extreme danger to flora and fauna in the area," said Robert Hoffmann,
Southern California environmental coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries
This is the first time the algae has been
discovered anywhere along the coasts of North and South America.
So far, it has been detected only in the Agua Hedionda lagoon, where the
largest patch measures 60 feet by 30 feet. Nine smaller patches have also
been discovered. Scientists are moving quickly to destroy the algae.
Researchers believe the toxic algae was
developed as an aquarium plant by biologists at the Stuttgart Zoo
aquarium in Germany. Other aquariums adopted the bright green, fernlike
plant as a cover for their artificial seabeds as well. The Oceanographic
Museum of Monaco apparently dumped some of the algae into the Mediterranean
in 1984, where it spread to cover 1,000 acres by 1992, and more than 10,000
acres by 1999.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton banned
the import and sale of Caulerpa in the U.S under the federal Noxious Weed
Act. But hobbyists can still buy the algae from aquarium dealers, warned
Hoffman. When these hobbyists clean their tanks and dump the salt water
contents down storm sewers, the algae can spread to the wild ocean.
Killer Algae Found off California Coast
By Cat Lazaroff