Bioluminescent Waves Filmed Off Los Angeles Coast by Patrol Boat

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) shared a clip of bioluminescent waves filmed from a patrol boat in the Marina del Rey area of L.A.

"We wanted to share a video of our boat patrols & the #Bioluminescent waves at our #LASD Marina Del Rey Sheriff's Station area!" the LASD said in statement, shared on Facebook this weekend.

Bioluminescent Waves at #LASD Marina Del Rey Station

We wanted to share a video of our boat patrols & the #Bioluminescent waves at our #LASD Marina Del Rey Sheriff's Station area! Hopefully our beaches will open soon if all goes well with Phase 2, this weekend.Some businesses in LA County are set to open this weekend. Please remember to keep practicing #physicaldistancing and infection control protocols so that we can move forward to phase 3.Also remember if you are going to be visiting any trails, trailheads or parks this weekend, be careful a lot of animals are out and about because the humans have been MIA.

Posted by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Friday, 8 May 2020

The blue luminescence captured in the footage was filmed during a giant red tide event that is currently taking place on North America's west coast.

Red tides occur when populations of phytoplankton explode, resulting in massive algae blooms that can turn the ocean a rust shade of red. While it is not fully understood what conditions are needed to produce these blooms, scientists believe it may be caused by nutrient and hydographic conditions that allow the phytoplankton to flourish.

The bright blue light captured by the LASD is also caused by the algae blooms—the phytoplankton emit bioluminescence when disturbed. Not all red tides produce these nighttime light displays, but many of those in California do.

Michael Latz, a bioluminescence expert and scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained the blooms in California are caused by a particular species of phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedra.

According to Latz, red tides of L. polyedra have been known to occur in California since the early 1900s. However, this year's red tide appears to be particularly spectacular.

"The red tide is very large, reaching from Acapulco to the south to Los Angeles to the north," Latz told Newsweek. "It is also the strongest in recent history, most likely in the last 50 years."

Red tides are unpredictable and there is no way of knowing how long they will last, but Latz says previous examples have lasted anywhere between a few days to one or more months.

In this instance, scientists first detected the bloom in late March. However, recent updates from Scripps Institute suggests it's on the wane—pictures of the bloom from April 24 and May 4 show the red tide has reduced over the last couple of weeks.

"We believe it is starting to degrade but we are unable to predict exactly when it will be over," said Latz.

The spectacle has drawn large crowds in spite of the state's lockdown measures in place during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The LASD took the opportunity when posting the video to remind residents to practice social distancing as the state enters the next stage of lockdown and certain non-essential businesses, including retail stores, begin to reopen with restrictions.

"Please remember to keep practicing #physicaldistancing and infection control protocols," said the LASD.

The Sheriff's Office also urged locals to keep an eye out for wildlife, which—in California and elsewhere—have made the most of humanity's temporary absence.

"Also remember if you are going to be visiting any trails, trailheads or parks this weekend, be careful a lot of animals are out and about because the humans have been MIA," it stated.

People watch waves glow blue due to bioluminescence
People watch waves glow blue due to bioluminescence at night on April 24, 2020 in Newport Beach, California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shared footage of the bioluminescence filmed on a patrol boat. Michael Heiman/Getty