Water-Related News

Cristobal brings harmless red drift algae to local beaches

It's slippery, slimy and a little funky smelling, but red drift algae that is piling up on local beaches is not a hazard to wildlife or people.

A type of seaweed, red drift algae grows on the bottom off local beaches.

"It’s not toxic like red tide," said Rick Bartleson, a chemist and water quality scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation on Sanibel. "You don’t want to eat it. Some people eat seaweed salad but you don’t eat this off the beach because it’s full of bacteria. So if a pelican poops on it, the bacteria from the poop will continue to survive on the algae."

Red drift algae grows on harder bottom surfaces and gets uprooted and dislodged when strong currents and waves pound the shores, which happened nearly two weeks ago when Tropical Storm Cristobal passed through the Gulf of Mexico.

Red tide is caused by an organism called Karenia brevis and is found naturally at background levels in the Gulf of Mexico.