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Ooey, Gooey Brown Waves Are Back on N. Oregon Coast (Video)

Published 04/12/22 at 8:22 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Ooey, Gooey Brown Waves Are Back on N. Oregon Coast (Video)

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(Seaside, Oregon) – They're oddly brown, a little oily in spots, a tad stinky, and they freak out the visitors. (Photos and video courtesy Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium).

It may look like an oil spill to some, but it's not. Those weird brown waves are back again to the north Oregon coast – and likely the southern Washington coast as well. Visitors to Seaside are coming into the Seaside Aquarium asking about it, and in many cases the curiosity of tourists are being answered by placards hung on various posts around town.

The cause is lots and lots of diatoms – a form of phytoplankton that is among the very basics of the marine food chain. If the blooms of these microscopic creatures get large enough, it starts to color the waves a unique, sometimes even sludgy brown.

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium said it's been happening for awhile now in a large area of the north Oregon coast, which means it's likely happening up on the southern Washington coast on the Long Beach Peninsula.

“The bloom is quite large and expands from Seaside Beach all the way to the south Jetty,” Boothe said. “Recent weather patterns have fueled this bloom for weeks. Heavy rain brings nutrient rich waters from the rivers to the ocean and the sun provides fuel for reproduction.”

The Seaside to Warrenton area as well as the Long Beach Peninsula are rather unique on this northwest shoreline in that it's about the only place this occurs. You'll sometimes see brown waves farther south, such as around Depoe Bay and Newport, but usually that's when storms have churned up river waters and you're looking at some amount of mud in the waters.

Tuesday at Seaside, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

While this gooey stuff alarms some people and makes them think it's an oil spill, it's actually a healthy thing.

“While there are harmful algae blooms, diatom blooms like the ones we are experiencing are very healthy for the marine environment,” Boothe said.

This actually means our offshore waters are in good shape, if it can support such large amounts of phytoplankton.

“In large concentrations diatoms can also have a very distinct briny marine smell,” Boothe said.

Most life out there on the Oregon coast is pleased as punch to have this around, but it can be a double-edged sword for the aquarium.

“Since we pump all of our water directly from the ocean our tanks have been a bit cloudy due to these blooms,” Boothe said. “While all of our ocean water goes through filters, these blooms have been so concentrated that the filters aren't quite enough. It is great for all of our filter feeders but it does affect the water quality, because of this we made a new sign explaining to our visitors why our tanks may look a bit cloudy. However, our tube worms, sea cucumbers, and clams have never been happier.”

You can also see these live on the Seaside cams at the Oregon Coast Web Cams page.

Diatoms are among the most common form of these plant-like critters living in Pacific Northwest ocean areas. All those nutrients can bring other amazing finds as well, such as more baitfish, which in turn bring out Humpback whales to the areas around Astoria to Cannon Beach. However, that usually occurs in the summer.

This weird sight may or may not be around for much longer – although the current weather forecasts are generally favorable for this right now.

“So how long do we expect these blooms to last? As long as the weather pattern of rain mixed with sun persists they will not be going away anytime soon,” Boothe said. Hotels in Seaside - Where to eat - Seaside Maps and Virtual Tours MORE PHOTOS BELOW



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