© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pinellas Warns About Blue-Green Algae; Beaches Still Open

Blue green algae floats in the lower St. Johns River in May 2010. Credit: FWC
Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
In late May 2010, water samples taken at the lower St. Johns River (St. Johns and Putnam counties indicated high concentrations of a harmful cyanobacterium (blue-green alga) species, Aphanizomenon cf. flos-aquae.

Pinellas County officials are urging residents and visitors to stay away from some blue-green algae blooms that have popped up in the last week.

Lyngbya, which is actually a bacteria, has been reported in the canals west of the Gulfport Casino, and in the Intracoastal Waterway by Treasure Island.

The algae can be harmful to the health of animals and people.

"What we want to advise the public is to avoid contact with it and keep your pets away. Lyngbya, in particular, is toxic to pets, and especially if it gets in their fur,” said Tony Fabrizio, Public Information Officer for Pinellas County. ”And in humans, it can cause sore throats and watery eyes."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Common in most of Florida's aquatic environments, many cyanobacteria species are capable of producing harmful toxins (cyanotoxins). Cyanobacteria can cause unsightly blooms; cause taste and odor problems in public water supplies and can kill domestic animals, pets, and fish and wildlife that drink or are otherwise exposed to untreated contaminated water or toxic biota.

Cyanobacterial blooms are common in Florida lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Approximately 20 cyanobacteria species in Florida's waters are capable of producing toxins, including bloom-forming species of Microcystis, Cylindrospermopsis, Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, Lyngbya, and Planktothrix.

Fabrizio said higher water temperatures cause these blooms.

"These tend to dissipate when we get any kind of significant rain that drops the water temperature a couple of degrees and stirs up the water,” Fabrizio said.

Calm water and minimal rain have caused several blooms throughout the area since May.

Fabrizio said Pinellas County beaches are still open to the public.

Blue-green algae blooms along with dead, diseased, or abnormally behaving fish or wildlife can be reported to the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute online at Fish Kill Hotline or by phone at 800-636-0511

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.