A huge bright green algae bloom is blanketing the sea off China's east coast and wind is driving it closer to land, an official said Friday.
Cui Wenlin, an official with the State Oceanic Administration, said the slimy bloom is the biggest China has seen since a huge outbreak in 2008 threatened to disrupt sailing events during the Beijing Summer Olympics. Before the games, thousands of soldiers, volunteers and fishing boats were recruited to clean up that bloom, which sailors took to calling "The Fairway" and "The Carpet."
The current outbreak has nearly doubled in size since it was first spotted June 14 near eastern China's Shandong province and now measures about 110 square miles (300 square kilometers), said Cui, who works at the administration's North China Sea Environmental Monitoring Center.
Winds are pushing the mass toward the resort city of Qingdao, and it was 6-12 miles (10-20 kilometers) from shore late Friday, he said.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the outbreak, Cui said.
So far, the bloom has not had any effect on the local fishing industry because of a routine fishing suspension that is in force to allow fish to repopulate, said Wu Wei, an official with the information office of the Qingdao Oceanic and Fishery Bureau. He said preparations were being made to clean up the algae when it reached the coast.
"We've taught people how to do the cleaning and have prepared over 60 vessels and other equipment for the cleaning," Wu said. "We're ready."