Algae bloom unlikely to foul up lobster mini-season in Miami-Dade

07/22/2013 6:01 PM

07/23/2013 12:23 PM

An algae bloom fouling portions of Biscayne Bay shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the popular lobster mini-season, which runs Wednesday and Thursday.

The blooms are not thought to be toxic and, for the most part, appear confined to waters already off-limits for lobstering. But on the unlikely chance that water is a murky pea-green or stinky brown at that super-secret honey hole, here’s some advice: Go find bugs at the next spot, one with clear water.

“Where you see the bloom, just don’t go fishing for lobster there,’’ said Lillian Rivera, administrator and health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County.

Rivera stressed that initial testing showed no apparent health risks or evidence of sewage in the bloom areas. But multiple county, state and federal agencies are still analyzing samples in an effort to determine what triggered the bloom.

State health official generally urge people to avoid swimming in any algae bloom, toxic or not, because it could cause rashes or other skin irritations for some people. In the event of exposure, they also recommend washing with soap and water and laundering clothing.

Surveys last week showed three large patches of algae in south and central Biscayne Bay, most of it within the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound lobster sanctuary, which overlaps much of Biscayne National Park. Lobstering is illegal in the sanctuary, which was established by the state to protect shallow sea grass beds and other habitat that provide critical breeding and nursery areas for young lobsters.

One bloom did creep beyond the sanctuary’s northernmost boundary, a line stretching from Matheson Hammock east to Cape Florida on the tip of Key Biscayne. But for the most part, the most popular lobster dive spots in Miami-Dade tend to be far from the blooms — in deeper waters and along the reefs and patch reefs in the Atlantic Ocean outside of Elliott Key and other Biscayne Bay islands.

The only issue might be the fetid smell churned up by boats passing through algae zones, which can shift depending on wind direction and tides.

“It would not appear that lobster mini-season would be affected by the bloom but people might choose not to boat through it,’’ said Elsa Alvear, Biscayne National Park’s chief of resource management.

The state’s two-day “sport season” for lobsters opens at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The regular season runs Aug. 6 through March 31.

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