What is blue-green algae?
Blue-green algae are tiny organisms which occur naturally in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, and rivers. They commonly occur during periods of prolonged hot weather but sometimes occur at other times of the year. Waters, which have been affected by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges, can be prone to developing blue-green algae, but they can also occur naturally.
In still waters the algae can multiply to such an extent that they discolour the water which then appears green, blue-green, greenish brown or dark brown. Sometimes a scum may form on the surface. This scum can appear in different places at different times, but is most commonly found at the water's edge or shore line.
How do blue-green algae affect humans and animals?
Some, but not all the blue-green algae produce toxins or release these into the water. It is not possible to tell which algae do or do not produce toxins simply by their appearance. Laboratory analysis is needed for this. Therefore, it is advisable to regard all algal scums as potentially toxic.
The toxins of blue-green algae can cause deaths of animals that come into contact with algae, either through drinking contaminated water, swallowing quantities of scum, or shoreline matter or crust or licking their coats that have been contaminated by the algae or toxins. Dogs have died after going into the water at the shores of affected lochs. If affected dogs (or other animals) can deteriorate very quickly and effects may occur after very little contact.
Canoeists, wind surfers and swimmers who have either swum through algal scum or swallowed it have suffered from skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea and pains in muscles and joints. Illnesses can be severe, particularly where affected water has been swallowed
What should I do about blue-green algae?
Be vigilant when using watercourses or shorelines.
When in doubt, stay out.
- Avoid all contact with the affected waters and ensure that children are kept away.
- Do not let your pets and other animals go into or drink the water or consume the scum
- Do not drink the water or use it for cooking
- Farmers should ensure that their animals do not have access to contaminated water. This may require fencing around suspect waters.
- If you must swim or enter the watercourse or loch, keep away from the algae and scum
- If you believe your pet may have been exposed to blue green algae then contact your vet as soon as possible to get advice.
If any member of the public finds areas of water they believe may be affected with blue-green algae , take a photo and report it on the Bloomin’ Algae website or app, and report it to the Councils environmental health at envhealth@argyll-bute,.gov.uk.
What are the council doing?
The council cannot control or mitigate the occurrence of blue green algae in watercourse and lochs, as it is naturally occurring. Our aim is to raise awareness of the risk to allow members of the public to be aware of the likely presence of blue-green algae, and make informed choices about their own actions.
Risk assessments have been undertaken of waterbodies where blue-green algae has previously occurred and in areas of high risk, semi-permanent signage has been erected to inform and warn members of the public of potential risks and actions to be taken in the presence of algae. The sign is as follows.
Permanent signage is located at the following lochs. You are advised to be aware and vigilant about the likelihood of blue-green algae and follow appropriate advice when using the watercourse or shorelines. Please note that whilst the signage is located at various parts of the loch, the advice is pertinent across the whole loch or watercourse as the algae can be dispersed and move about the loch with weather and currents.
Loch Eck, Cowal
Lock Eck Holiday Lodges
NS 141 868
Loch Eck layby south of Inverchapel Lodge
NS 142 872
NS 142 879
NS 142 886
Loch Eck Caravan Park
NS 143 888
NS 139 908
NS 141 924
Rubha Croise car park (Jubilee Point)
NS 141 930
NS 143 933
NS 141 946
Loch Nell, by Oban
Lock Nell Pump House Gate
NM 881 266
Lock Nell Bench
NM 881 271
Loch Awe, Argyll
Dalavich Café / Notice Board
NM 969 127
NM 970 128
Loch Awe Gate at Shore Walk
NM 998 175
NN 047 214
NN 088 248
Kilchurn Castle car park
NN 138 279
Kilchurn Castle viewpoint
NN 134 271
Loch Avich, Argyll
Loch Avich 1
NM 952 154
Loch Avich 2
NM 949 154
Luss Caravan and Camping site
Lodge on Loch Lomond
Duck Bay beach
Rossdhu South Gates
In lochs and waterbodies where there is no permanent signage, the Council will post our website and social media of any notifications or reports received We will consider posting and will consider whether temporary warning notices are necessary, as blue-green algae blooms can be short-lived, transient and may move around a body of water due to weather conditions.
What about eating fish from affected waters?
Blue-green algae and their toxins can adversely affect fish growth and health and, in some circumstances, can cause fish kills.
Fish should not be consumed if dead fish or strange fish behaviour is seen, blue-green algal scum is present or notices are displayed indicating the presence of blue-green algal cell numbers or toxins in unsafe levels.
Anglers and pet owners should not feed the liver or guts from fish to their pets, when fish are caught in waters affected by blue-green algae, as described above.
If you would like any further advice about blue-green algae, please contact your local environmental health service or call 01546 605519. This NHS leaflet on blue green algae gives information about its effects on humans and animals
Other invasive or harmful plants
You can find out information about other invasive or potentially harmful plants in Argyll in the invasive and harmful plants section.