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Algae Plagues Florida Beaches and Waterways

“Fishing, tourism and public health are vulnerable to algae this year in Florida”, observes Ellsworth Buck, V . p . of Insurance, Florida's leading independent marine insurance company.

Red Tide

A patchy bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida. You might recognize red tide around the beach. It looks like thick mats of smelly, brown, seaweed and covers beaches along Florida's Chesapeake bay.

Red Tide is really a naturally-occurring microscopic alga that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840's and occurs nearly every year. Blooms, or higher than usual concentrations of the Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, frequently exist in the Gulf, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports some red tide produces toxins which have harmful effects on people, fish, marine mammals and birds. In humans, the toxin may become airborne and ranging amounts of eye and respiratory irritation can occur, increasingly severe for all those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, for example asthma. Even touching the bloom may cause a rash. MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium issues daily beach conditions from beaches along the Southwest coast and along the panhandle. Try checking the website prior to you heading out for the day.

Toxic Algae Bloom

Red tide isn't the only algae growing in Florida. Two years ago, some Florida waterways and beaches were suffering from what many described as an environmentally friendly, slimy, rancid- smelling algae. Well-it's back. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reports the blue-green algae also known as cyanobacteria, typically develops in nutrient-rich lakes that contain high amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen. High temperatures, warm water and abundant sunlight create ideal conditions for that toxic blooms to thrive.

Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie estuary are full of the toxic algae as it is constantly on the spread to Cape Coral and Ft. Myers. “Just cleaning up the water won't help, highlights Buck with Insurance, Florida's largest independent boat insurance agency. Both red tide and also the blue-green algae are exacerbated by fertilizers and other pollution fed by runoff in the surrounding land.

The blue-green algae can cause skin rashes, nausea, respiratory issues, cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Long-term conditions include; liver, kidney and central nervous system damage.

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency this week for seven counties around the lake to give state environmental and tourism agencies more resources to respond to problems brought on by the algae. The order also authorizes flushing water south of the lake rather than on the rivers running towards the coasts.