Rare algae in Marco, Port Royal canals nontoxic, Collier officials say

— Tests show that blooms of a rare algae in canals on Marco Island and in the Port Royal neighborhood in Naples do not contain the same toxin as red tide, Collier County pollution monitors said today.

That means the algae blooms do not pose the same kind of health risk as red tide poses to people with chronic respiratory ailments, such as asthma or emphysema. Red tides can exacerbate these conditions and cause fish kills.

Fish kills are still possible with the blooms of Takayama tuberculata if the algae sucks enough oxygen out of the water, pollution control specialist Rhonda Watkins said this week.

The Takayama blooms represent the first time the algae species has been recorded in Florida, according to scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg.

Scientists say they do not know what caused the blooms. The Marco Island bloom was reported in early May, before the onset of summer rainy patterns; the Port Royal bloom was reported May 28.

Watkins wrote in an e-mail this afternoon that pollution control monitors are going to try to get weekly samples to track the blooms.

Without access to a boat on Marco Island, though, tracking will be limited to shoreline samples. It is difficult to tell whether the Marco bloom is still there or has moved elsewhere in the canal, she wrote.

Results of water samples that Naples natural resources managers took from a city boat Thursday confirmed that the Port Royal bloom has diminished from very high concentrations of 4 million cells per liter to medium concentration of 175,000 cells per liter, Watkins reported today.

Neither red tide nor Takayama was found in any of the samples of water collected this week from Collier County’s beaches, according to this week’s red tide report.

The algae blooms turned the water a rust red color in a canal on the west side of Copperfield Court on Marco and turned the water yellow in canals around Gin Lane in Port Royal. The blooms contain a stringy mucous-like material.

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