Florida's Seaweed Conditions: What Tourists Need to Know

Stay informed on the current seaweed conditions in Florida before planning your beach vacation. Learn about toxic algae blooms and red tide on the southwest coast and 'regular algae' on the southeast coast. Discover tips for staying safe. Read more now.

Florida's Seaweed Conditions: What Tourists Need to Know
Sargassum seaweed is also affecting Florida's beaches. Photo by Hristina ҆atalova / Unsplash

Tourists heading to Florida's beaches should be aware of the current seaweed conditions, as concern grows over the increase of algae on the state's coasts. Satellite images have captured the presence of a huge patch of tiny marine plants in the Atlantic Ocean, which could be headed for the beaches of the southeastern Florida peninsula.

On Florida's southwest coast, where the algae growth is associated with the influx of agricultural nutrient waste and other ingredients, toxic algae blooms are increasing. As a result, the influx of tourists is lower and it is anticipated that this situation could ruin spring break, which for many commercial venues is the busiest time of the year. Samples taken last week indicate the presence of red tide on beaches located between St. Petersburg and Naples. Neighbors along this long stretch of coastline, which runs for 100 miles, are complaining of burning eyes and breathing difficulties, as some dead fish are beginning to wash up on beaches.

Meanwhile, on the southeast coast of Florida, where the popular resorts of Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale are located, the presence of 'regular algae' has been a constant in recent years. Scientists are concerned about the extensive algae bloom in the Atlantic, which could lead to a less clean beach year. Brian LaPointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, stated that the bloom does not bode well for clean beaches.

If you are living in beach areas, it is recommended that you close windows and turn on the air conditioner, making sure the air conditioner filter is maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications. If you are outdoors near an affected site, wear face masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing. The 'sargassum sea' could threaten the area's infrastructure, as it can block inlet valves to power or desalination plants. Marinas could be completely inundated, and boats would not be able to navigate.

Sargassum Seaweed Blooms in Florida. USF College of Marine Science
Sargassum Seaweed Blooms in Florida. USF College of Marine Science - University of South Florida

Sargassum Influx on South Florida Beaches: Challenges and Innovative Solutions

The accumulation of sargassum on South Florida's beaches has become a major concern for both residents and visitors. Local authorities have developed a strategy to eliminate the foul-smelling seaweed from the shorelines. Sargassum is a natural brown seaweed that drifts in the Atlantic Ocean and arrives annually on Florida's beaches. It originates from a vast belt stretching across the tropical Atlantic, from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.

Once the seaweed reaches the coast and remains there for an extended period, it starts to break down, emitting a noxious odor resembling rotten eggs that permeates the surrounding area. The stench of seaweed drives away tourists and locals from our beaches, and many people find it unpleasant to swim or enjoy the ocean in such conditions. The situation has worsened in recent years due to the increased amount of seaweed on Florida's coasts. Researchers and scientists from the University of South Florida (USF) have observed and cautioned local authorities about this escalation.

While the exact causes of the sargassum influx are not yet fully understood, researchers have linked it to rising temperatures and nutrient levels in the sea. To maintain the cleanliness of our beaches, Miami Beach has resorted to burying the seaweed in the sand to prevent unpleasant odors. However, this approach created more significant issues when it was discovered that the gases released during sargassum decomposition were adversely affecting the local beach ecosystem. As a result, Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach have had to allocate funds to extract substantial amounts of sargassum that washes up on Florida's beaches.

In contrast, the Fort Lauderdale government has developed a different strategy, which involves collecting the seaweed and relocating it to an open space to mature for 90 days, eventually turning it into nutrient-rich soil. This soil is then used in city planting projects, providing an eco-friendly and sustainable solution.

Overall, the sargassum influx on South Florida's beaches is a complex and growing issue. While there is still much to learn about the underlying causes, it is reassuring to see that local authorities are taking action to tackle the problem in innovative ways that prioritize environmental sustainability.

Saving Turtle Hatchlings: How to Help Them Escape Sargassum on Florida Beaches

Turtle hatchlings are often trapped in the sargassum that accumulates on Florida beaches, putting their lives at risk. If you're a resident or visitor of these beaches, you can help these little turtles make it safely to the sea. Here are some steps you can take:

Between May and October, sea turtles come to Florida's shores to nest. After laying their eggs, they return to the sea, and the hatchlings eventually emerge from their nests and begin their journey to the ocean. However, the large amounts of sargassum that wash up on the beaches can trap these tiny turtles, preventing them from reaching their destination.

To assist these hatchlings, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Avoid handling them.
  • Notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately.
  • Contact 888-404-3922 or visit www.miamiwaterkeeper.org/report to report any trapped hatchlings.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure that these vulnerable hatchlings make it safely to the sea, where they can grow and thrive.