Bioluminescence: Secret Phenomena, Beauty Unseen

No one really knows why phytoplankton light up.

Bioluminescence in Parksville Qualicum Beach
Phil Hart Photo

For zooplankton and larger animals there are more theories about communication, mating and luring prey. But there are limited theories surrounding the glowing phytoplankton that appear in the Salish Sea. However, the glow certainly helps diving ducks hunt at night!

Theories Regarding Bioluminescence

This phenomenon can be seen in Parksville Qualicum Beach a few times a year during summer. The light is activated by agitation of the water. Signing up for a snorkeling tour or walking through the waves is a fantastic way to enjoy the blue glow.

“ Even the waves light up. ”

When & Where to Spot Bioluminescence:

  • The phytoplankton can typically be seen in July and August.
  • Stroll along the water at Rathtrevor Beach for a chance to spot the blue glow in the crashing waves.

Viewing Tips:

  • For the best viewing choose a moonless night and dark area away from city lights.
  • Snorkeling is great fun as the organisms will light up as you approach giving the effect of traveling at light speed through the stars.
  • Marvel at the sparkling fairy trails left behind by passing fish.

This is a guest article by Patrick Walshe, Biologist. For more Parksville Qualicum Beach experiences like this, check out our Outdoors Activities page.

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