Blue-green Algae (Cyanobacteria)
Cyanobacteria is one of the oldest types of lifeforms on Earth and is found primarily in freshwater systems. There are thousands of species of cyanobacteria and many are known to produce a variety of toxins.
Cyanobacteria is a photosynthetic microorganism that processes sunlight, nitrogen and phosphorous to live. They can regualate their position in the water column for optimal light and thrive in warm, nutrient-rich fresh or brackish water with low turbulence.
Microcystis and Anabaena are two of the most common cyanobacteria found in estuarine systems today. These bacteria are known to produce cyanotoxins dangerous to humans and animals. Microcystin and Anatoxin are classes of hepatoxin and neurotoxin, affecting the liver and brain, respectively.
Human and animal exposure to Cyantoxins comes in three primary forms of contact:
- Dermal contact
- Inhalation or aspiration from aerosolized surface water
Related News Stories
Harmful Algal Blooms
Florida’s waters are at a tipping point as phosphorus and nitrogen pollution and climate change combine to create a perfect storm for the increasingly frequent outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae and red tides. St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman and Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani are leading the fight against this growing scourge.
Florida Department of Health Fails to Consistently Notify Residents of Health Risks from Toxic Blue-Green Algae
After massive and recurring blue-green algae blooms in Florida waters that resulted in multiple “states of emergency” issued by then-Governor Rick Scott in 2016 and 2018, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is still unable to consistently warn the public of the toxic blooms.
John Cassani said to see algae in the middle of the dry season is unusual. ”When it’s calm and the wind starts blowing, those tend to stick together,” Cassani said. “Then they produce polysaccharide that enables them to kind of glue together and forms those mats.” Cassani is talking about big green chunks seen in canals in 2018.
Just in time for the height of tourist season, patchy slicks of blue-green algae are showing up in the Caloosahatchee, including at one of the river’s popular access points, the Davis Boat Ramp. Although users launching boats and watercraft at the ramp saw no warning signs about the potential dangers of contact cyanobacteria.
Calusa Waterkeeper, The Center for Biological Diversity and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation are calling on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish legal limits for cyanotoxins that pose severe health risks to people and wildlife.
Beachgoers felt the effects of water quality issues along some SWFL beaches. John Cassani, ecologist and founder of Calusa Waterkeeper, says red tide continues to cause fish kills along Fort Myers Beach, while the beach is also lined with piles of what appears to be red drift algae.
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