With summer temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Chinese city of Qingdao, locals and tourists flock to popular beaches along the coast. This summer, however, many were discouraged from enjoying the water by massive swaths of stringy green algae. In what Chinese officials dubbed a "large-scale algae disaster," the green tide spreads over 7,500 square miles (an area approximately the size of Connecticut) across the Yellow Sea.
Researchers cannot pinpoint the exact cause of the recent blooms but suspect they are caused by pollution and seaweed farming. Beachgoers initially seemed entertained by the muck—photographs captured by the local media show people swimming and playing in the bright green mounds. As the algae decayed, however, people became less amused. The algae sap the water of nutrients and oxygen, then die, decompose, and putrefy. Officials sent boats and bulldozers to clear over 120,000 of tons of the biomass from the water and the shore.
This outbreak is thought to be twice the size of one in 2008, which threatened events during the Beijing Olympics. Cleanup costs for the 2008 algae bloom were later estimated at more than $30 million. Abalone, clam, and sea cucumber farms suffered over $100 million in damage, according to a 2011 study by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.
China Daily reports that a local restaurant in Qingdao is taking advantage of the surplus by developing new dishes using algae collected from local beaches; the most popular are the sautéed egg-algae pancake and algae-duck soup.