Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are a naturally occurring part of the
food chain. Although they are most closely related to
bacteria, they contain chlorophyll and depend on sunlight to grow, like plants.
Blue–green algae can be found all over the world, and occur in Florida’s
freshwater and brackish habitats, such as lakes, rivers and estuaries.
Blue-green algae are common throughout the United States.
Some, but not all, blue-green algae can produce toxins that can contribute to
environmental problems and affect public health. Scientists know little about
what causes the algae to produce these toxins. Even those blue-green algae that
are known to produce toxins do not always do so. You can find more information
on health aspects of blue-green algae from the
Department of Health.
The occurrence of blue-green algae is natural and has
occurred throughout history. Still, to better understand the phenomenon, Florida
monitors blue-green algae closely because nutrient (such as nitrogen and
phosphorus) pollution appears to intensify blue-green algae outbreaks. The state
is taking long-term measures that will reduce nutrient loading and improve water
Algal blooms were documented in Florida’s coastal waters as early as the 19th
century. In 1998, a
Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force
was created to address potential concerns regarding microalgae, including
blue-green algae, through monitoring and investigation. DEP continues
efforts to respond to and analyze all algal bloom reports. For more information
on state agency partners and algal bloom response and analyses efforts, please
visit the Response and Analyses Page.
To learn more, listen to the
Geological Survey CoreCast with useful information about algal blooms.
Report any illness from exposure to harmful algae to the toll-free Aquatic
Toxins Hotline: 1-888-232-8635
Report fish kills to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
"There are no short term solutions to rectifying the
situation; this is a naturally occurring phenomenon that the
State monitors closely. However, the state is taking
measures that in the long-term will reduce nutrient loading
and improve water quality."