Brown substance off Venice beaches? It's algae - WFLA News Channel 8

Brown substance off Venice beaches? It's algae

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Trichodesmium, aka "sea sawdust", off Venice Beach Trichodesmium, aka "sea sawdust", off Venice Beach
VENICE, FL (WFLA) -

A News Channel 8 viewer sent us some disturbing pictures of a brown substance floating off the coast of Venice.

The viewer was concerned for beachgoers' safety, so we went to find out what it was.

We showed the photos of the brown mystery substance to Mote Marine staff scientist Dr. Vincent Lovko. He studies red tide and other algae substances found in the water.

"That's pretty characteristic of trichodesmium right there. A kind of hazy brown, patchiness on top of the water, yeah," Dr. Lovko said.

Dr. Lovko says the brown substance wasn't oil or anything harmful.  It goes by the slang term "sea sawdust", but its scientific name is trichodesmium.  It's a naturally-forming algae that blooms offshore, and sometimes the current will bring it toward land.

Sea sawdust can also appear white or foamy, in addition to brown.

Dr. Lovko said there are no risks to humans or wildlife.

"There's no reports of any health effects, this has bloomed here a long time," he said.

Scientists say the algae pops up around southwest Florida between May and September.  It's partially caused by dust from the Sahara desert.

"Iron-rich dust from the Sahara, which blows in this time of year, fuels those blooms," said Dr. Lovko.

Scientists take samples of algae blooms in the area each week. They can even be seen by satellite imagery.

So scientists say if something like this appears at the beach, don't panic. It may not look nice, but it will not harm you.

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