12/23/2015 11:44 EST | Updated 12/23/2016 00:12 EST

Algae bloom threatens annual New Year's Day polar bear swim in Victoria

Victoria's New Year's Day polar bear swim could be on ice because of a toxic algae bloom in two area lakes.

Organizers say blue-green algae has been found in Thetis Lake in View Royal, northwest of Victoria.

Polar bear swims have been held at the lake for the past two years after a similar algae bloom forced the event out of Elk Lake in Saanich, the traditional site since 1976.

Plans to return this year's 40th annual swim to Elk Lake are halted because the Saanich location is still plagued by blue-green algae, which is linked to intestinal ailments in humans.

Organizers's aren't optimistic about finding a new site in time, but a polar bear swim in nearby Cowichan Bay is slated for 11 a.m. on New Year's Day.

Events are also planned in Parksville and on Salt Spring Island, while British Columbia's best known polar bear swim in Vancouver's English Bay, goes at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 and is expected to attract several thousand hardy souls. (CFAX)  


The Canadian Press