Red drift algae ashore on Southwest Florida beaches

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Published: Updated:
Photo by WINK News.

Beaches across Southwest Florida are dealing with red, smelly gunk. But it’s nothing to worry about for your health. However, it’s keeping people from sticking their toes in the water.

Beachgoers had to deal with unsightly, smelly red drift algae along Fort Myers Beach Sunday.

“We’re from out of town and definitely was not expecting this coming to the beach,” Hannah Lawrence said. “And at first, I was like, is that safe?

The beaches along Sanibel Island to Marco Island are lined with the drift algae too. And the water was free of swimmers due to the large barrier of drift algae. That said, red drift algae is not toxic.

Experts say the red tide and Lake Okeechobee releases killed a lot of the marine life that normally feeds on the naturally occurring red drift algae. That’s why there seems to be a large amount of it across Southwest Florida

There is a light at the end of the tunnel: Experts say, thanks to warm water temperatures and normal salinity levels, marine organisms will build back up, and that’s when we will see a decrease in the algae buildup.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach said the drift algae does have some benefits, however. It feeds wildlife. But locals and visitors say it is hindering their time at the beach, and they are questioning why it’s not being cleaned up.

The town said drift algae cleanup can be difficult because it is fragile and will break apart and mix into the sand more if workers attempted to rake it up.

The timeline is unknown, but the red drift algae will eventually disappear on its own.

“It’s a shame,” Paul Sullivan said. “Because you go to the Caribbean, and all the Caribbean resorts, they clean up the beaches, and everything is good from the night before. Here, it just seems to linger and linger and linger, and it smells.

Trust WINK News to update you on this water quality concern.

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