LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The sugar-white sand of Southwest Florida has an unwelcome visitor, red drift algae. An ugly, sometimes smelly plant that's not toxic. Don't confuse it with red tide, an organism you can't see that kills fish.
"It kind of wrecks the scenery."
For many visitors to our coast, the algae is something they're not used to seeing.
"This is the first time I've seen it like this."
"In years past, it has not been present. I wondered what it is, I wondered what its from."
But environmental experts knew it would be here, calling this one of the worst cases we've ever seen. They're blaming the billions of gallons of freshwater released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River this summer. All of the nutrients in the water have helped the algae grow. And WINK News is learning those experts aren't sure how long this outbreak will continue. Right now, it's easily spotted in several areas of Southwest Florida.
"Last year was the red tide, and that was a little bit, it did smell a little bit more so than this."
But unlike red tide, which can kill marine life, this algae is more of an eye sore. Though some say it they can smell it. But for visitors I spoke to, they admit it's not ruining their experience.
"We'll still walk along the beach and we'll still you know go shelling and all that kind of stuff. It doesn't really bother me, we're in paradise."
WINK News has learned Fort Myers Beach public works will have crews on the beach removing the algae tomorrow morning from areas on the beach where it is thickest.