Freshwater Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are a type of algae found naturally in aquatic environments. Under the right conditions, cyanobacteria can grow rapidly resulting in an algal bloom. Environmental factors such as light, temperature and nutrients contribute to bloom formation.

Some species of cyanobacteria have the potential to produce toxins that can be harmful to humans, pets, wildlife and fish. Non-toxic blooms can cause harm to plants and animals that live in the water body by creating low oxygen levels in the water column and reducing the amount of light that reaches submerged plants. With these factors, a rapidly forming, dense concentration of this algae is called a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).

Algal blooms vary in appearance and density, and it is impossible to precisely predict when or where a bloom will occur, how extensive it will be or whether it will be toxic. This makes monitoring and responding to HABs challenging, which is why state agencies have established a systematic approach to HAB response focused on minimizing risks to the public.

A number of state agencies work together to address algal blooms as a response team, each with a specific role. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the five water management districts (WMDs), the Florida Department of Health (DOH), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) coordinate and respond to HAB events as soon as staff observe them or they are reported.

DEP monitors waters throughout the state and maintains laboratory staff who can quickly identify bloom species and determine whether they have the potential to produce toxins. Information regarding the species’ composition, density and, in some cases, the level of toxins being produced are reported to other state and federal agencies, local governments and the public.

FWC documents and determines the causes of fish and wildlife mortality events. FWC also monitors coastal waters for HABs, typically referred to as red tides. The monitoring program provides weekly updates on current red tide conditions in Florida’s coastal waters here. FWC also shares responsibilities for the management of shellfish harvesting waters with DACS.

DOH has the lead role when a HAB presents a risk to human health or there are reported health incidents associated with a bloom. DOH may post warning signs when blooms affect public bathing beaches or other areas where there is the risk of human exposure. These actions are typically directed out of local county health departments, most often in consultation with staff from DOH’s Aquatic Toxins Program. DOH also follows up on reports of pets that may have been exposed to a bloom, since these events may predict potential human health threats.

The state’s bloom response team encourages everyone to be on the lookout for blooms and report them. Establishing a schedule for routine observations is one way local citizens, volunteer groups and others can help agencies identify potential HABs and make sure we can respond to them quickly and effectively. Contact information for reporting blooms can be found here.

A bloom’s toxicity cannot be determined by looking at or smelling the water; therefore, it is recommended that people avoid contact with algal blooms. Children and pets are especially vulnerable, so keeping them away from the water during a bloom is especially important. DOH maintains a public access site to find out if there has been a reported bloom, that can be accessed here.

For additional information and frequently asked questions, visit here.

To receive periodic updates on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in your area, go here.

ALGAL BLOOM RESPONSE SAMPLING RESULTS AND UPDATES:

NORTH FLORIDA

  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 3, 2015 Update is available here.
  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 18, 2015 Update is available here.
  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 25, 2015 Update is available here.
  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response- July 6, 2015 Update is available here.
  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – August 4, 2015 Update is available here.
  • North Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – August 20, 2015 Update is available here.

CENTRAL FLORIDA

  • Central Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – July 9, 2015 Update is available here.
  • Central Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – July 23, 2015 Update is available here.

SOUTH FLORIDA

  • Initial sampling results from the Lake Okeechobee – Port Mayaca bloom reported on April 23, 2015, are available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – May 20, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – May 22, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 2, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 9, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 16, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – June 26, 2015 Update is available here.
  • South Florida Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response – July 24, 2015 Update is available here.

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