When you see bioluminescence at night for the first time, whether it appears as sparkling aura around a sea lion or the glowing foam of a wave crest, you might blink your eyes and wonder if you’re imagining it.
“It’s like fireflies in the water,” said Casey Pruett, director of the Marine Life Center at the Port of Bellingham.
Bioluminescence is a glowing light produced by many creatures, including tiny marine vertebrates and invertebrates.
“Around here, it’s a single-cell phytoplankton. It’s around mid to late summer, but then it goes away. It needs the sun to create food,” Pruett said.
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“I generally find it in places that receive a lot of fresh water that gets stagnant (such as Teddy Bear Cove and along Boulevard Park). I see people jumping into the water in the evening (near Boulevard Park) and the effect is there.”
A fabulous place to see the phenomenon is Griffin Bay on the San Juan Islands, she said.
It’s pretty darn cool, I’ll tell ya. Especially if you encounter a harbor seal or fish, it illuminates the whole body. It’s like ‘Fantasia.’
At the Community Boating Center in Fairhaven, special summer tours take kayakers to places around Bellingham Bay to see the phenomenon.
“They seem to excite people’s imagination,” the center’s Steve Walker said.
“It’s pretty darn cool, I’ll tell ya. Especially if you encounter a harbor seal or fish, it illuminates the whole body. It’s like ‘Fantasia.’ ”
Tours are best in late summer after an algae bloom, he said. Best times are July, August and September nights with a new moon that allows full darkness.
Kristi Kucera, owner of Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures in Bellingham, said the bioluminescence tours fill quickly.
“We were both fully booked last summer,” said Kucera, who used to give tours at the boating center.
For more information about bioluminescence tours, contact: