Toxic blue-green algae outbreaks, or harmful algae blooms (HABs), are increasing in duration and frequency – threatening our waterways and our own health. St. Johns RIVERKEEPER (SJRK) has already gotten reports of blooms this year throughout the watershed from Duval to Indian River County. Nutrient pollution, warming waters and runoff from frequent rain storms during the summer could result in even more green muck coating our River.

Nutrients and blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are naturally occurring in our environment. However, too much nitrogen and phosphorus can cause excessive algae growth that severely impacts the ecological balance and health of our waterways. Algae blooms can prevent sunlight from reaching underwater plants, clog fish gills, and deplete oxygen from the water, harming aquatic life and potentially causing fish kills.

Human Health & Pets

If you encounter a green scum coating the surface of the water or green flecks or clumps suspended in the water column, it may be an algae bloom. Avoid boating, swimming, or fishing in this area.

Toxins produced by some algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and respiratory irritation. High exposure to some algal toxins can potentially even harm the liver and nervous system.

If you or your pet come in contact with a bloom, wash off immediately and thoroughly with clean water and soap. Contact a veterinarian if your pet suddenly becomes lethargic or shows signs of poisoning including vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures.

Helpful Tips:

  • As advised by the CDC, when in doubt, keep yourself and pets out. Look for signs of a bloom of harmful algae or cyanobacteria before going in water and stay out if water looks or smells bad.
  • Do not fish, swim, boat, or play water sports in areas where there is possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria.
  • Do not go into or play in water that:
    • Smells bad
    • Looks discolored
    • Has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface
    • Has dead fish or other animals washed up on its shore
  • Protect your pets and livestock from getting sick by keeping them away from water with possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria. Do not let animals:
    • Get in the water
    • Drink the water
    • Lick or eat mats of cyanobacteria or algae
    • Eat or graze near the water
    • Eat dead fish or other animals on the shore
    • Go on the beach or shoreline
  • If you or your pets do go in water that may have a bloom, rinse yourself and your pets immediately afterward with tap water from a sink, shower, hose, or outdoor spigot. Do not let pets lick their fur until they have been rinsed. Pets may have harmful algae, cyanobacteria, or related toxins on their fur if they swim or play in water with a bloom.
  • If you are notified of cyanobacteria or their toxins in your public drinking water supply, follow guidance from your local or state government or water utility to reduce the chances of you or your animals getting sick. Boiling water does not remove toxins and can concentrate the toxin.
  • Check for and follow local shellfish and fish advisories before eating any fish or shellfish you collect yourself. Algal and cyanobacterial toxins in fish or shellfish have no taste or odor. Cooking or preserving food does not remove toxins. Thus, you cannot tell if the seafood is safe by just looking at, smelling, or tasting it.

When You See a Bloom: Take Action

Please contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to report new algal blooms by filling out this form. To help the agency quickly and accurately respond to your report, please provide as much information as you can and be as descriptive as possible. You can also call toll free at 1-855-305-3903.

Email report@sjrk.org with photos, time, date and location.

To report fish that are either dead or sick, contact the Fish Kill Hotline 1-800-636-0511.

If You Have Symptoms

Contact your healthcare provider for advice about how to relieve your symptoms. Let them know that you might have recently come in contact with a bloom or its toxins. While there are currently no available tests or special treatments for illnesses caused by algal or cyanobacterial toxins, information about the suspected cause of your illness might help your healthcare provider manage your symptoms.

Call your poison control center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. The specialists can provide information about illnesses caused by blooms.

Report any illnesses that you believe were caused by algae, cyanobacteria, or their toxins to your local or state health department.