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Algae Bloom Along Florida's West Coast Is Not Red Tide. So What Is It?

Here's a 2018 Trichodesmium bloom 10 miles offshore of Sarasota County.
Here's a 2018 Trichodesmium bloom 10 miles offshore of Sarasota County.

State wildlife officials say a Trichodesmium algal bloom has been lingering off the coast of Southwest Florida the past few weeks.

It’s a cyanobacteria that always exists in the Gulf of Mexico. Blooms are a yearly occurrence with colors varying from golden brown, to green, and even pink.

Kate Hubbard leads the algal bloom research and monitoring program at the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. She said this bloom is now being reported from Pinellas County down to Collier County.

Trichodesmium algae bloom six miles south of Sanibel Island on Friday.
Credit Greg Rawl
Trichodesmium algae bloom six miles south of Sanibel Island on Friday.

“We also had some levels that we found in Gasparilla Sound, and then also on the east coast in Flagler Beach,” she said. “That is interesting and helps us really turn to looking at ocean circulation.”

Hubbard said the Saharan winds are blowing iron-rich sands into the Gulf. Trichodesmium feeds off of that iron. Then it consumes nitrogen from the air and disperses nutrients into the water, which could potentially feed toxic red tide blooms- those don’t typically start until the end of the summer.

READ MORE: Saharan Dust Is On The Way To Florida

So other than possibly nourishing red tide, and also cutting off some oxygen to marine life in the water, Trichodesmium blooms are not known to be harmful.

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