New Brunswick

Red, gelatinous mass baffles Moncton family fishing near Doaktown

Jennifer Meunier was on the lookout for a good fishing hole on McKean Brook Road near Doaktown with her husband and kids when the family came across a pond covered in a bright red, bubbling, quivering, paint-like substance on top of the water.

'It was really bright red, kind of bubbly, kind of quivering the closer that we got to it'

Jennifer, left, and Sienna Meunier were hoping to find a nice spot to fish near Doaktown, but instead they came across a small body of water, bubbling with a thick, red scum on top of it. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Jennifer Meunier and her family hoped to find a good place to fish when they pulled off the highway near Doaktown onto McKean Brook Road, but instead they found a pond covered in a bright red, quivering, bubbling, paint-like substance.

Meunier took a  video of the encounter on Sunday. It shows her husband throwing a rock into the water. The rock breaks the surface, creating a hole and the red substance ripples outward. 

"Look, it's all going right back together," Meunier can be heard exclaiming outside the frame as the hole immediately closes back up.

By Tuesday afternoon, Meunier had still not figured out what the substance was.

A red jelly-like substance sits on top of the water in a pond near Doaktown. Jennifer Meunier and her family discovered it on a fishing trip over the weekend. (Jennifer Meunier)

"t was really bright red kind of bubbly kind of quivering the closer that we got to it," she said. "It was really really strange."

Meunier posted the video to Facebook and reported what she'd seen to the province.

Janice Lawrence, associate professor in biology at the the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton said it's difficult to tell what the substance is without a closer look.

"But it does look very similar to blooms that we see of microscopic organisms. Blooms meaning abundances of high-population density of microscopic organisms that together form a very large discolouration and thick surface scum on water bodies."

Janice Lawrence, biology professor at UNB, said that without a microscope, it's difficult to say for sure what the red substance is, but from what she saw in the video, she guesses it is cyanobacteria or algae. (Submitted)

She said it's likely algae or cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria are commonly called blue-green algae, but they are distinct from algae. They can produce a red, slimy version of themselves too. 

Lawrence said a combination of certain nutrients, climates conditions and temperatures can cause algae and cyanobacteria to grow, but the substance can also disappear overnight as the nutrients run out.

"There's a good possibility there's nothing dangerous associated with the population. However, there are some organisms in those groups … that can form blooms that have toxins associated with them."

An unidentified substance rests on the surface of a pond near Doaktown. After a rock was thrown at the pond a hole formed, the mass jiggled, then the hole closed back up within seconds. (Jennifer Meunier)

Even without toxins, she added, the water could cause a rash or itchiness, simply because it is so dense.

According to Lawrence, people don't often recognize the substance as organisms because it comes in a variety of colours.

Though cyanobacteria are naturally occurring, their appearance is enhanced by human activity. She cited global warming and the use of fertilizers as factors in an increase in blooms.

Jennifer Meunier said she reported the water to provincial officials and hopes she gets a definitive answer as to what it was. 

The Department of Environment and Local Government said it will be visiting the site to take a sample this week.