Clumps of apparent algae in Manatee, Sarasota counties causing concern. But it’s not red tide

Just a few months after Manatee County shorelines were declared clear of a red tide bloom that persisted for months and killed fish and other marine life and cleared out beaches, what appears to be another type of algae has appeared in local canals and bays.

Clumps of the substance in question have caused a repulsive sight and an unpleasant smell. While nothing in comparison to the repugnant stench and tainted water caused by red tide, concern is spreading while scientists look for answers.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in taking samples of the suspected algae and testing is underway.

Samples taken Sunday at the Rod and Reel pier in Anna Maria and May 1 off of School Key, near the Key Royale Bar, did not show any harmful algae blooms, according to FWC research institute spokeswoman Kelly Richmond.

“We have not found anything in the samples that we took from the locations we sampled,” Richmond told the Bradenton Herald in an email.

William Fonseca, who vacations in a rental on the island, said he first noticed the water become “murky as hell” about a week ago.

Holmes Beach Chief of Police William Tokajer last week referred to it as some sort of fungus and said he was unsure when it had began.

The substance had formed a visible presence near docks along Key Royale Drive on Friday afternoon.

The latest weekly red tide report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicated that red tide has not been found in Manatee or Sarasota waters.

Photos of the algae were sent to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, according to Stephanie Kettle, public relations manager.

“But it’s not something we monitor or keep track of,” Kettle said.

A benthic ecologist at Mote was consulted, however.

“We don’t know necessarily what type of algae it is but there is benthic algae that lives on the bottom of lakes, bays,” Kettle said. “They produce oxygen and sometimes that causes it to float up to the tops. And as it comes up, it brings up all the sludge with it,”

That sludge is what is creating the unpleasant sight and smell some have reported.

“The smell is from it decomposing,” Kettle explained.

Meanwhile, a potentially toxic green algae was found in one sample taken last week in Lemon Bay in northern Charlotte County.

A sample taken by FDEP found Lyngbya wollei, a green algae capable of producing toxins, according to a department spokesman, Weesam Khoury.

That sample in Lemon Bay and another at the mouth of Coral Creek in Charlotte County contained a branching green algae, Bulbochaete. Both types of green algae are common in fresh water but can live in brackish waters.

The department is still trying to determine if a toxic analysis can be completed on either sample.

“Persistent blooms are routinely monitored and retested, and staff also regularly review satellite imagery and aerial photography, when available, to inform the development of daily sampling plans,” Khoury told the Bradenton Herald in an email

Additional samples have been taken by FDEP since Tuesday in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Samples were taken from Sarasota Bay near Whitfield Avenue in Manatee County, as well as from Central Avenue and 40th Street, Marina Jacks, the Osprey Fishing Pier, Blackburn Point Park and Island Mound Park in Sarasota County.