That's not an oil spill on the Oregon Coast

That's not an oil spill on the Oregon Coast
"Even the great baleen whales, like the Gray Whale, filter plankton and diatoms as part of their diet," Tiffany Boothe with the Seaside Aquarium said. "When the surf zone becomes too saturated with diatoms, they wash ashore. When they do wash ashore, it is in such great quantities that they resemble an oil spill."

SEASIDE, Ore. - Weather conditions have been fueling massive diatom blooms all along Clastop County beaches, according to the Seaside Aquarium.

Diatoms are single-celled plants (phytoplankton) found in both fresh and salt water, said Tiffany Booth from the Seaside Aquarium. 

"They are responsible for turning the surf brown and staining the sand," she said. "Everything in the ocean feeds on diatoms and other plankton, either directly or indirectly. These diatom blooms, though they look bad, are a sign of a healthy ocean environment."

Diatoms have benefits for clammers.

"Did I mention razor clams love diatoms?" Boothe said. "Looking for a good place to razor clam? Go where the surf is brown."

Boothe said diatoms are one of the most important food sources in the ocean. 

In the winter, spring and early summer, diatoms rapidly multiply in the surf zone.

Diatoms absorb large amounts of nitrates and phosphates that are delivered into the ocean by coastal rivers, contributing to their population explosion. 

Everything in the ocean feeds on diatoms and other plankton, either directly of indirectly. 

"Even the great baleen whales, like the Gray Whale, filter plankton and diatoms as part of their diet," Boothe said. "When the surf zone becomes too saturated with diatoms, they wash ashore. When they do wash ashore, it is in such great quantities that they resemble an oil spill."

>>> See Photos of the Diatom Bloom