Fort Myers Beach cleaning up red drift algae washed up on shore

Published: October 21, 2019 4:27 PM EDT
Updated: December 6, 2019 11:32 AM EST

Strong storms and wind conditions are linked to the cause of stinky piles of gunk on some Southwest Florida Beaches, but not it’s not keeping all beachgoers away.

Red drift algae was in large abundance on Fort Myers Beach over the weekend, so crews had to bring in bulldozers to clear it out Monday.

“It’s really not very, very delightful,” said Michael Johnson, a visitor from Springfield, Illinois.

Locals like Done Meidinger acknowledged the unsightly piles and the smell in the air, but it’s not alarming him immediately.

“The smell is bad, but I’ve seen worse,” Meidinger said. “I’ve smelled worse.”

The smelly red drift algae litters Fort Myers Beach, but visitors like Johnson are also not letting it ruin their beach day. But it doesn’t mean he is welcoming the atmosphere it creates by the water.

“We made our plans like several months ago,” Johnson said. “So we weren’t expecting this when we came down.”

Dr. Barry Rosen, a professor at FGCU’s The Water School, said wind-wave action or a storms like Tropical Storm Nestor can lead to the drift algae washing ashore.

“Any time you have a storm that detaches these organisms, pulls them off their attachment, they then become free-floating, hence the word drift,’” Rosen told us on the phone.

Rosen said it’s not a smell people should breathe in after a certain time.

“The only time you should worry is when it starts to degrade or break down,” Rosen aid. “And it can make noxious chemicals that smell bad.”

We also reached out to the City of Sanibel, where red drift algae has also washed ashore. The city does not have current plans to clear it from its beaches, since heavy equipment could affect shore birds and other wildlife on the sanctuary island.

In Johnson’s opinion, the management of the drift algae and other water quality issues in Southwest Florida are imperative.

“If you want tourism to keep flourishing here in Florida, you kind of need to keep this to a minimum,” Johnson said.