Gulf Coast states see similarities to Southwest Florida blue-green algae

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:

The same type of algae that plagued our waterways, causing a water crisis last year is now devastating the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tampa Bay Area is also having problems.

Mike Parsons, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who also serves on the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force, said the microcystins found in Mississippi is the same as what we saw in Southwest Florida last summer. Mississippi coastal waters have a Cyanobacteria bloom that may be from the Mississippi River.

In response to the algae, all of the beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have been shut down. The Tampa Bay Area is having a bloom of its own.

“The similarities I think between what we saw and what Mississippi is experiencing are high levels of nutrients,” Parsons said. “Tampa is experiencing a different kind of blue-green algae bloom. It’s what we commonly call ‘lyngbya.'”

Parsons said Lyngbya, which is found on the bottom of bodies of water, has direct sunlight likely fueling it. He said there were blooms of it washing up on the backside of Captiva Island in April and May.

But, Parsons said there is no connection between the two areas as the lyngbya blooms have localized. While different pockets of the Gulf Coast are experiencing their unique water issues, it is crucial to remain vigilant. Scientists warn rising water temperatures and more rainfall could lead to cyanobacteria blooms becoming more common.

“I would just say avoid the areas,” Parsons said. “Don’t get in the water when you see the blooms.”

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