Algae blooms found in Matlacha Pass

Slimy and milky water is appearing in Matlacha Pass.

“The smell is awful,” said Jeff Boone.

Friends Boone and Sue McAfee were out on Matlacha on Wednesday looking for fishing spots but instead, the two ended up finding foul-smelling water.

It’s not just noticeable from the fishing pier. A bird’s eye view of the water shows it is milky with mat algae on the bottom of the Matlacha Pass.

The algae in this case is likely feeding on nutrients from septic tanks and the Peace River, not Lake Okeechobee releases.

“When my father was growing up, when he was a fisherman, this was a pretty clean estuary, it was full of oysters which helped clarify the water,” said Dr. Rick Bartleson, a research scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Needless to say, things have changed since then. Bartleson tests the water quality at Matlacha Pass and has found different types of algae in the water.

“The algae is covering up the seagrass beds, the seagrass beds were part of what made the estuary function,” Bartleson said.

That means less food for marine life while the marine life fights for oxygen in some portions of the pass.

“When it goes anoxic or hypoxic, it basically destroys the ecosystem,” Bartleson said.

In the meantime, people hope the clumps go away soon.

“Clean it up. Let’s get it clean so we can go fishing.”

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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