That’s one way to sum up the situation.

Wedged between the Japanese mainland, Shikoku, and Kyushu, the Seto Inland Sea, or Inland Sea for short, is world-renowned for its stunning views and pristine waters.

However, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has recently deemed that the water mass has become “too pretty.”

▼ Visitors of the area are often treated to gorgeous views such as this one.

Logically speaking, crystal clear waters are often used as a visual indicator when it comes to determining how healthy a body of water is. But for the case of the Inland Sea, being too beautiful meant something else more problematic.

The main issue? Not enough nutrients in the water.

▼ This isn’t something any nutrient supplement pills can fix either.

For more context, efforts to preserve the Inland Sea came about in the 1980s due to the development of local factories, which spurred the prevalence of red tides in the region — a natural phenomenon in which aquatic microorganisms converge in large clumps on water surfaces. This phenomenon occurs specifically when nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are abundant in the water, and run-off from factories during this time period, rich in these types of particles, allowed aquatic microorganisms to temporarily flourish.

However, algae blooms such as red tides are harmful to local wildlife, and they often leave multitudes of dead marine animals in their wake. Red tides also poison shellfish in the area, and naturally this destruction of marine life leads to financial consequences for local fishermen as well.

▼ Example photo of a red tide outbreak in a Japanese harbor.

To prevent ecological unbalance, the Japanese government moved forward with legislation, enacting a law focused on protecting the delicate environment of the Inland Sea. While red tides have decreased over recent years due to regulations on factories, their decline has also led to a sharp fall for the Inland Sea’s nitrogen and phosphorous levels.

Ironically, with less red tides the waters of the Inland Sea may seem more clean, but too few red tides are also a cause for alarm as that may indicate a severe decrease in nutrients within the water.

Specific strains of seaweed depend on in-water nutrients, and native species such as the Japanese sand lance eat microorganisms that also feed on them, putting certain marine life populations at risk. At the same time, officials will have to take a cautious approach as to not affect the populations of yellowtail and sea bream in the local area, which have been impacted by red tides in the past.

▼ A closer look at the Japanese sand lance.

While no in-depth details have been published as to how the Japanese government will improve the nutritional balance of the Inland Sea’s waters, so far the plan calls for the cooperation of local governing bodies in regulating the amount of water discharged from water treatment plans as well as dams and reservoirs.

It will no doubt be a task requiring a good amount of personnel and time, but hopefully everything goes smoothly and no invasive crayfish show up to cause more issues.

Source: Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Waka moana
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2), Wikipedia/melvil, Wikipedia/Izuzuki
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