Sea Sawdust blooming at some Collier County beaches

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

A new phenomenon where a “rotten-hay” smelling algae bloom is occurring on Collier County beaches.

Despite the brown and green look and odd scent, people didn’t seem to mind and were even in the water.

Some think the kind of algae blooms seen at the Collier County beaches looks like an oil or sewage spill, but examined more closely, and you can see small saw-dust material. It does have an interesting smell, but Collier County said it’s not harmful to people or the environment.

A brown substance, known as sea sawdust, showed up at some Collier County beaches this week.

WINK News checked Seagate Beach and found some brown and green gunk on the shore. It’s an improvement from when WINK News scoped out the area on Monday.

“I first noticed there were a few waves. And then there was a little debris floating in the water and algae and seaweed on the beach. But it’s not bad. There’s a little bit of an ocean smell. But when you’re around, you don’t notice it,” Naples resident Laura Smith said.

The algae bloom, known as trichodesmium, is mostly found in tropical waters and commonly hits our beaches in May and June. Smith and her kids noticed the smell, but it didn’t impede their beach-going efforts.

“We tend not to go to the beach if we hear there’s red tide. And now this isn’t anything like that. You just look past it and enjoy the water and the sand,” Smith said.

The good news is the county said the sea sawdust is not toxic.

“Trichodesmium blooms kind of happen… they are naturally occurring blooms just like many other phytoplankton blooms that we have,” FGCU Water School professor, Adam Catasus said.

However, according to Catus, the bad news is it leaves behind nitrogen that can feed Red Tide.

“As far as we know, it doesn’t really cause a lot of fish kills like a lot of the red tide blooms, cyanobacteria, and like freshwater ecosystems. So, Trichodesmium, it’s just kind of a phytoplankton that blooms and dies off eventually when it runs out of resources,” Catasus said.

Collier County Pollution Control said they’re testing the waters for Red Tide, and the results thus far are all clear.

WINK News reached out to the Department of Health, who wasn’t able to comment since they’re waiting for more information regarding the bloom.

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