Matlacha residents want action taken after finding thick algae, dead fish

Published: June 14, 2021 4:30 PM EDT
Updated: June 17, 2021 11:33 AM EDT

Decaying algae is coming to the surface in the backyards of some Southwest Florida residents; now it’s leading to small dead fish, and neighbors want action to be taken.

Rick Salkeld sees algae in his canal near the Matlacha Park Fishing Pier. “It’s not a happy time,” he said.

Salkeld is not happy about having to rake the algae in his canal.

“We try to keep it away from the dock and the boat as much as we can. Of course, you can’t fight it too much too long, because you can’t win,” he said.

Salkeld and his wife say they’ve lived here for more than a decade and have never seen it this bad.

“When the wind blows in our direction, the smell, we’ve got to close the lanai off and not use our lanai. It’s that bad,” Salkeld said.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani wants to know if this particular algae is toxic. Earlier this year, the same species of algae was tested and came back positive for a paralytic shellfish toxin.

“The root is primarily nutrient pollution or over-enrichment of nitrogen, phosphorus, and we just have too much of that in our waterways, comes from stormwater runoff, sewage spills, leaky sewage pipes, septic tanks, those types of things,” Cassani said.

He was collecting water samples on Monday. He says these things worry him because Matlacha Pass is supposed to be protected.

“It’s a special water body that’s supposed to get the most protection we can provide, but here we are. So whatever is meant to prevent these things is not working.”

The Calusa Waterkeeper expects to have the toxin results from this sample back within the next week or so.

WINK News also reached out to Lee County about the dead fish and algae in canals. A county spokesperson said:

“Lee County government staff continuously monitor water quality conditions in and around Parks & Recreation sites and Lee County waterways. As conditions evolve or change, the county takes operational steps accordingly.”