Red Tide & Harmful Algae
This webpage is under development. Check back for updates.
Algae in St. Pete
Blue-green algae are a naturally occurring type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments but can also be found in some marine environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors. More about blue-green algae can be found at protectingfloridatogether.gov/education-center/blue-green-algae.
Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions, and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.
Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals. For water that has harmful algal blooms present, residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
- Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
- Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
- Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
- Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
- Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
- Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.
Red tide is a discoloration of a waterbody surface that occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control. Red tide blooms occur nearly every summer on Florida’s Gulf Coast and the most notable impacts are fish kills and unpleasant odors. Fish kills are large groups of dead marine life which wind and tide conditions condense into a common area resulting in unpleasant odors along waterfronts or areas near impacted waterbodies. Additionally, red tide itself produces a distinguishable odor, burning eyes and nose or throat irritation in areas adjacent to or near waterbodies that are experiencing a bloom.
More information about red time can be found at:
If You Come Across an Algal Bloom
If you see an active algal bloom, report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online here.
Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center by calling 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.
Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with water contaminated with blue-green algae.
The City of St. Petersburg encourages residents and visitors to report marine life washed up on the shore.
- Fish Kills: Notify the City through the See Click Fix app or at stpete.org/service for the quickest response.
- Non-Fish Kills (manatees, dolphins, mammals, etc.): Notify the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission through the FWC app or by calling 888-404-3922.
Citizens who wish to collect dead fish from their private property can double bag the fish and dispose in their regular trash bin.
How You Can Help
Algal blooms, including red tide, are made worse by nutrient pollution. Help minimize the effects of harmful algal blooms by preventing nutrients from reaching our local waterways all year long.
- Properly dispose of yard waste - gather yard waste and put in your compost or bag it and dispose of it in the trash, or take it to one of the city's brush sites.
- Adhere to St. Pete's yearly fertilizer ban that runs June 1 to September 30. More here.
- Only use your sprinklers when necessary and never when it’s raining.
- Always pick up your dog's waste. More here.
- Wash your car at a commercial car wash or over grass/gravel if you must wash it at home.
The City of St. Petersburg routinely monitors bacterial levels at select surface water locations. More at stpete.org/recwaterquality