Fort Myers Beach residents concerned about impacts of red drift algae

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:
Red drift algae (WINK News drone)

Fort Myers Beach is full, but not with people—with red drift algae and the dead fish that have been washing up onshore.

If you’re breathing all of that in, what’s the impact on your health?

The smell is choking. The bunches of algae cover any sand to sit on.

The good news is that it’s not on every spot along Fort Myers Beach.

Some spots are way worse than others, but it’s ugly and it smells.

“There’s no way to enjoy the beach here. You can barely mow your grass because it stinks so bad. There’s no way to swim in this, there’s no way to go fishing,” said Erik Henrikson.

No way to get around the red drift algae piled up on Fort Myers Beach. Henriksen noticed the worst of it from Connecticut Street to Hercules Drive.

“Estero Island is somewhat shaped like a moon and we are basically mid-island here, so it seems like most of the algae and things are in the red drift algae is coming to the center of the island like in a cup,” said Henrickson.

And that’s exactly where Fort Myers Beach is focusing its clean-up effort.

On Tuesday, dumpsters and trucks were taking the stuff away; a reversal of what the city did on Monday when crews pushed the algae back into the water, hoping the tide would take it back out to sea.

“It’s all in different sections. It’s not everywhere, it’s here and there. You can’t beat this right here,” said Eric Tangman of St. James City.

Near Times Square, not a trace, but, “as you go down there, it gets worse or you see dead fish, you see everything on the beach,” said Steven Gregorio.

His worry—even if it’s harmless to people, pictures and video like this harms Fort Myers Beach’s image.

“We need it, kind of, immediately because people want to enjoy the beach,” said Gregorio.

A fear shared by many.

“It’s all about the money coming here. I mean, they just signed a 20-year contract for the speedboat races, but I know I wouldn’t spend $5,000 to come down for a week and have to be on a beach like this. No way,” said Henrikson.

So why is the red drift algae so bad on Estero Island?

One researcher at Florida Gulf Coast University said it’s very likely that the currents and wind are pushing it toward the center of the island, but that’s not permanent. As soon as the weather changes, it could come to a beach near you.

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