5,000-mile seaweed bloom heading toward South Florida

Sargassum seaweed could suffocate wildlife

ByRyan Arbogast, WZVN
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
5,000-mile seaweed bloom heading toward South Florida
A 5,000-mile giant seaweed bloom is heading toward South Florida; the sargassum could suffocate wildlife. Here's what to know about it.

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- There's about a 50/50 chance the South Florida coast will be covered in a 5,000-mile-wide algae bloom in June.

Scientists at the University of South Florida have said sargassum could pile up all over the beaches, WZVN reported.

"In Key West, a beach already saw a large amount of sargassum a week ago. That's pretty early," USF's Dr. Chuanmin Hu said.

Hu is studying the movement of the mess.

Video from 2018 shows a pile of rotting sargassum that hit the beaches of Miami.

Another bloom double the width of the United States is now only about 100 miles from Collier County, Florida.

"Algae are OK, as long as they don't get too bad; they affect the aesthetics and our health," said Barry Rosen, a Florida Gulf Coast University Water School professor.

RELATED: Seaweed problem in Caribbean: Beaches face unprecedented overgrowth due to climate change, pollution

Concerns over an impact in southwest Florida have prompted Rosen to study USF'S satellite imaging.

"Fifty/fifty chance, so there's no way of predicting. What if all the currents and all the wind blows it to the Yucatan Peninsula? Could be a non-issue for us," he said.

If the sargassum does make it to Florida beaches, it can cause a lot of problems.

The rot and the smell are similar to red tide and dead fish.

If it's not cleaned up immediately, it can literally suffocate wildlife.

"If you have a turtle, or a turtle nest on the beach, you have a huge thick blanket on the turtle nests, the young turtles will have a hard time surviving," Hu said.

Just like red tide, there may need to be emergency measures put in place to fight the pileup. In other areas like Miami, local governments have hauled it away or buried it under the sand so it can naturally decompose.