“Here, have a sip." My sister handed me a bright orange drink filled with ice to the brim and topped with a stripped plastic straw. “What is it?" I asked while examining the natural beauty. “It's mango lassi from one of Mumbai's most famous restaurants," she replied and leaned back into the beach chair.
I took a small taste, and stared out into the fading horizon, a beautiful explosion of pastel red and pink. The sea rumbled before us. Having spent over a week in India, I found this moment, at Juhu Beach, to be the most serene. I enjoyed the salty air and the fresh breeze as we sat underneath a wide umbrella, which shielded from the fading sun. Away from the smog-ridden central of Mumbai, the ocean provided a haven of diverse wildlife. From small Olive Ridley sea turtles to black-spotted seagulls, the sea held me with endless fascination.
“Hey, do you see that?" My sister asked and pointed into the waves. “What?" I remarked, slightly annoyed as she had disrupted my wandering mind. “Look! The ocean is GLOWING! It looks like someone poured a thousand packs of blue glow sticks into the water."
I jumped out of my seat and raced toward the sea. Could it be true? Indeed, the ocean was glowing. A pale, blue aura stretched across the shore line. As I waded into the water, my feet radiated with a brighter cerulean while the water around me remained steely blue. A trail of fluorescent bubbles followed my wandering fingertips across the surface.
Then, I took a closer look and gasped. Bioluminescent plankton. Millions upon millions swam in the water. Small fish gobbled them up greedily while balls of plankton zoomed to and fro. Further out, a small pod of young dolphins splashed happily, throwing up pools of bright blue in the night.
The glowing waves of Mumbai. Like a scene straight from the Life of Pi, the phenomenon was simply another of Mother Nature's mysteries taken for granted. Ironically, they were not entirely nature's doing: humans created the prime condition for the alluring array of blue shades. Little did I know, however, the incandescent waves were the first indicators of adverse effects of climate change on marine environments.
Although visually impressive, the glowing waves of Mumbai, a form of algae bloom, grow at unprecedented rates. The Noctiluca scintillans on Juhu Beach are known as plankton dinoflagellates, a common emitter of bioluminescence. When disturbed, the free-floating organisms churn with the passing waves and release a flash of blue light. Only with high concentrations can “the sea sparkle" be seen for weeks, which is an adverse effect of warming waters, according to Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services.
As climate change prevents upwelling of colder water containing nutrients from decayed organisms on the seafloor, the biomass left in surface water is trapped, and the plankton feed on the excess nutrients, resulting in a population boom. The consequences are dire: dissolved oxygen levels decline with increased aerobic activity, ammonia levels rise to unbearable levels, and the fish then begin to “choke" to death in the muddled water. This is a prime example of coastal eutrophication, which is responsible for the thousands of fish deaths within the Arabian Sea. Even worse, since 2015, these phenomenons have spread to the coasts of Hong Kong, China, and Maine.
The ocean- rich with diversity, culture, and economic value- is invaluable to the human population. Although the churning waves and dark abyss may seem menacing to some, it holds the crown jewel of nature's most fragile and productive ecosystems. Unless the effects of climate change can be repudiated, toxic, suffocating masses of algae will continue to taint the surface waters and overwhelming waves of bioluminescent plankton will continue to flood the beaches of Mumbai. Now is the time to act. International collaboration is the only solution to survive the “year of living dangerously," for both the water and the flesh.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE ALSO: Mumbai's glow-in-the-dark waves may be fueled by climate change, study says
Disclaimer: Characters are purely fictional.