Hurricane Dorian brings chunks of red drift algae to Sanibel Island

Hurricane Dorian may not have come close to Southwest Florida, but its impact is showing up on Sanibel Island. Visitors said they did not expect chunks of red drift algae to wash up on the beach.

While it is a beautiful Bowman’s Beach day from far away, if you take a closer look, there are sloshy, thick mounds of red drift algae.

“It makes itself known pretty quickly, as soon as you walk up you can see,” said Rick Charbonneau, a Sanibel resident.

“It’s definitely not appealing,” said Kristen Geary, who is visiting from Georgia. “It’s definitely on the grosser side of looking at things.”

For Geary, the red drift algae is something she did not want to see on her vacation. She was expecting clear water and sunshine. To see that was bizarre.

But, if you are from Southwest Florida, it is not a new sight. Charbonneau said he is used to seeing the red drift algae. Like most residents, he does not have a fondness for it.

Dr. James Douglass, an associate professor in marine and earth science at Florida Gulf Coast University, said Dorian is partially to blame. The storm was picking up seaweeds and bringing it to Sanibel shores in massive amounts leading to the spike.

However, Douglass said there are other factors at play.

“A very important vocabulary word that I think all Southwest Florida residents should know: Eutrophication!” Douglass said.

Eutrophication is usually traced to human-made causes, such as pollution, which can lead to dense algae that can cause death to animal life from a lack of oxygen and drift in abundance to the beachfront.

Douglass told WINK News he expects more red drift algae in the water since there has been much pollution flowing into the water. Despite the eyesore and smell, it is safe to swim in those waters. Still, it is enough to turn people away from Sanibel shores.

“I won’t go in the water,” Charbonneau said, “just because who knows what’s growing in that stuff.”

“Maybe, I won’t swim!” Geary said while laughing.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
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