Blue-green algae is back on Sanibel

SANIBEL, Fla. – There’s an uninvited guest on Sanibel Island this summer. Blue-green algae has returned after first causing a stink back in 2006…

The algae might not be visible at first glance, but it’s something lurking below.

Scientists with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation say they noticed a hair-like, blue-green algae, known as “lyngbya” growing for about a month now.  It’s covering the sea floor like carpet, all the way from Light House Point to Tarpon Bay. And they’re not sure why it’s back.

“We don’t know, other than we think that it’s highly resistant to be eaten by a lot of things,” said Dr. Eric Milbrandt.

In other words, it tastes bad. But what else could be causing it to multiply in the island’s back bay?

“It’s right at the mouth of the Calooshatchee, where all last year we had very high fresh water discharge events. And there may be some legacy nutrients in the system that are helping to fuel the increased growth,” Dr. Milbrandt added.

That’s similar to what happened the last time the blue-green algae showed up in 2006.

It doesn’t seem to be stopping beach goers, like the Gonzalez family.

“It was a little bit slimy, and when I touched it, I got a little bit scared and I left. Then I went back, but stayed by the shore,” said Aura Gonzalez.

Anglers like Zachary Johnson might notice it more.  He’s on vacation from South Carolina and told FOX 4 bait fish are little harder to find.

“There aren’t as many as I have seen in years before,” said Johnson.

The carpet of algae is overtaking the sea grass beds, where pinfish and others hang out.

“It will cause a lot of sea grass to lose their leaves, and a lot of juvenile fish and shrimp use that habitat to take cover from their predators,” said Dr. Milbrandt.

And another problem — once the algae comes lose and starts rotting, it really sticks. That hasn’t happened yet.

Scientists with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will be out again at the end of the month to monitor the algae and see whether that carpet bed is growing or shrinking.

Barry Miller, jrn.com

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