Saadiyat Beach has been closed to swimmers after a harmful algal bloom was found in the sea surrounding the island.
It is understood that the red tide — which is caused when a species of algae called dinoflagellates grow out of control — was discovered at the weekend.
Dinoflagellates contain pigments that vary in colour from brown to red during the day — giving them their name — but they can appear luminescent at night — as happened in California last week when waves containing a red tide glowed as they broke on the shore off the coast of San Diego.
There are thousands of species of dinoflagellates — and a few dozen can be extremely toxic to people and marine life. In 2008 and 2009, a red tide caused serious damage to the UAE’s marine life, damaging fish stocks, coral, and wiping out large populations of fish in Dibba Rock. Shark numbers in the bay are only now recovering.
A spokesperson from Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas said the Tourism Development and Investment Authority had instructed the beach area be temporarily closed until the red tide cleared.
He said Environment Agency Abu Dhabi took samples of the red tide on Saadiyat at the weekend. Tests are ongoing to establish the exact type, but it is understood to be an irritant, rather than toxic.
Residents on Saadiyat received an email on Sunday saying that the beach has been closed for swimming until further notice.
“It is confirmed by EAD that the red algae are not toxic, however, can cause skin allergies. Further studies are still undergoing,” read the email.
“Therefore, you are kindly requested to abide strictly by the recommendation of the EAD and refrain from swimming in the sea. We will keep you posted as to when the beach will be safe for swimming.”