West Bay Beach Sea Lettuce
April 30, 2014
Rotting sea lettuce, along with its unpleasant odour, has made its return to West Bay beaches. This natural occurrence can start as early as the beginning of spring and continue into late August.
Sea lettuce is bright green algae with ruffle-edged leaves that resemble a leaf of lettuce. It is a source of food for many waterfowl.
The algae grows rapidly in warm, shallow waters. Low tides and exposure to the hot summer sun causes it to dry out and wash to shore, where it continues to accumulate and rot. The natural composting of this organic material generates a rotten egg smell (hydrogen sulphide). When exposed to the sun for a prolonged period, the sea lettuce is bleached white and is often mistaken for toilet paper. Low tides also expose the mud which has its own distinct smell. Area residents should note that, while the sea lettuce may not smell good, it does not pose a health risk.
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