Blue-Green Beware: Understanding Harmful Algae Blooms

South Florida weather is typically fantastic. Unfortunately, sometimes, the weather is just right for a type of algae that could be harmful to people, wildlife, and pets. Blue-green algae have been present in some of the waterways and canals in the Fort Lauderdale & Hollywood areas. While there is no reason for alarm, it is prudent to be on the lookout!

There are several species of blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) that can occur in Florida’s fresh or brackish waterbodies, many of which have the potential to produce toxins. If people or animals splash in the water or if boats create wakes, the algae cells can be broken apart, and the cyanotoxins can be released into the air.

This algae is blue, bright green, brown, or red and can have a strong odor like rotting plants. Pets can become sick from blue-green algae, so keep them out of those areas and away from contaminated marine animals and fish.

Not all algae are bad! Algae are plant-like organisms that sustain marine life. They contribute to the food chain and to the oxygen that keeps water bodies healthy, but sometimes, when conditions are right—often warm water and increased nutrients—certain algae can quickly grow and overpopulate. These foam- or scum-like masses are called blooms and can be pushed to the shore by winds, waves, tides, and currents. Some blooms release toxins that make ecosystems, animals, and people sick; scientists call these harmful algae blooms (HABs). In Florida, HABs can be found among our saltwater, freshwater, and brackish water bodies.

While water from areas with blue-green algae can make people and animals sick, FDEP sample results demonstrate that the observed blue-green algae (as of this writing) do not pose a threat related to toxins sometimes associated with these organisms. 

As a precaution, neighbors should not swim in or around blue-green algae. If you come into contact with blue-green algae, wash off with soap and water, especially if your skin is easily irritated.

Resident and visitor reports are an important tool in helping the Florida Department of Health identify potential harmful algal blooms in public waters. To report a bloom, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 855-305-3903 or make a report online at To help them quickly and accurately respond to your report, please provide as much information as you can and be as descriptive as possible.

To view a live map visit