Bioluminescent Plankton is normally associated with Tropical environments such as Florida or Costa Rica or the Caribbean Has been spotted along the Welsh coast line this summer it has been seen from Anglel in Pembroke shire to southern down in the vale of Glamorgan, it’s been spotted on Southerndown, Ogmore Porthcawl which was Newton and restbay, Aberavon, surprisingly not Swansea Bay as of yet. Light pollution can be a factor in lack of Bioluminescent plankton so it is a little surprising to see it in Aberavon. On the Gower it was spotted in Pebbles Three cliffs Tor bay and Broughton bay . The Facebook page Bioluminescent Plankton watch Wales has grown more and more in popularity as people have been sharing photographs and videos along with info of where they think is the best place to go and see these great scenes in the Sea.
Some of the frequently asked questions on the Facebook site are the following:-
Will the plankton be at location X tonight?
Nobody knows, predicting this stuff is close to impossible.
What is the best time to see it?
Short answer, when it’s dark. Astronomical twilight in the UK for July is 11pm-3:30am so anywhere between those times for now. There’s no best time, it changes. Sometimes its good as darkness falls, sometimes it picks up in the early hours of the morning, sometimes it’s all night. Its potluck
How long will it be around for?
Again, nobody knows. It’s been spotted until as late as October/November.
Where has it been seen?
Southerndown, Ogmore, Porthcawl, Aberavon, Three Cliffs Bay, Broughton Bay, Penmon and Angle Bay
What conditions are needed?
Again this is very open to speculation and there’s no concrete answer just yet. It seems to favour warm sea temps and sunny days. Other online studies have linked locations to places with agricultural runoff and others have even linked it to surface wind direction. There is no link between high or low tide, nor incoming and outgoing tide. I’ve even seen it during heavy rain
What am I looking for?
Firstly, you’ll need to keep torches off as it is a faint glow (and also to respect photographers in the area). Some nights are better than others where you can clearly see the blue neon glow from 100-200m away as the waves break or as you agitate the water. Some nights it’s tame and you will only see a blue sparkle when you splash your feet in the sea. It is more visible to the naked eye than cameras but on strong nights the camera will pick up a stronger blue than the eye will.
Bioluminescent Plankton has been sighted on the Welsh coast for many decades, There have been sightings of it for the last three years which is unusual. But there have been sightings before that on various years, it is hard to say if there have been more sightings or if there are more people putting pictures etc up on the internet because they have phones and cameras that are good enough to take pictures of them and with the internet these can be spread very quickly. We have heard that the last time there was so many sightings was in 1976 which of course was the last really hot summer. Again, it is in the frequently asked questions on the Bioluminescent plankton Wales watch but there are key factors to seeing it. You are only going to ever see it when we have warm weather and warm sea temperatures and you’re only going to see it when it is dark which is usually between 11pm and 3am.
The plankton will only bloom if there is a warm sea but with sea temperatures now being around 18 degrees that is perfect. The plankton needs nutrients to feed on, it is sometimes said that it is a good sign of good quality water but without all these combination of factors coming together you are not going to see it. The Bioluminescent Plankton group has really grown in popularity in recent weeks with more and more people setting of late in to the night hoping to get glimpses of the sea lit up, but it is worth remembering to keep yourself safe. Its not a great idea to go out on your own, or somewhere down the coastline late at night, somewhere you have never been before, it is always worth knowing the dangers of incoming tides, rip tides, tumbling cliffs and other hidden hazards etc.
The reason the Bioluminescent plankton lights up is because it flashes as a defense mechanism, the flashing mechanism is to frighten a predator, while they escape essentially. It has been reported that they charge up in the day on UV Light, so the brighter the light is during the day the brighter they will light at night..
If you get a chance make the most of the hot weather and get yourselves down to one of the beaches where the Bioluminescent plankton has been spotted and go and check it out for yourself. Have a look on the facebook page Bioluminescent plankton watch Wales and find the places where there has been previous sightings and see other people’s previous posts of pictures and videos. It really is worth a look, it’s a great Facebook group and it is growing by the day with more and more people sharing great pictures and info of where they think is the best place to catch a glimpse. Make the most of the hot weather and go and see for yourself!