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Date of Issue: March 23, 2006

Seaweed invasion sours tourism

Another fine mess, Ollie
Beachgoers on the northern part of Anna Maria Island last week were treated with a barrage of seaweed that washed ashore, creating an unpleasant smell and souring the look of the beach. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Seems that seaweed likes Anna Maria.

Last week, Anna Maria's beaches from Bean Point south to past the Sandbar restaurant were treated to invasion of the noxious weed, spoiling a few vacations and creating an unpleasant smell.

The invasion was most prevalent from the Sandbar restaurant to Bean Point.

That could be because a sandbar in the area has been growing rapidly the past year and is likely preventing the seaweed from being spread along the Island, said a scientist with Mote Marine in Sarasota.

While seaweed, known scientifically as sargassum, might make for a delicacy in some diets, getting rid of its smell - and getting the grass removed from the beach - is no delicate matter.

Anna Maria Public Works Director George McKay said it's the responsibility of the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department to clean up the beach, but it often takes that department several days or even a few weeks to schedule a beach cleanup.

Unlike a red tide kill, when political pressure can force the department to move quickly, a seaweed invasion is low on the list of priority cleanups, a department official said.

"We have a schedule we go by. We'll try and get it on the schedule, but it could be a few weeks," the official said.

McKay said he would contact the county's department supervisor, Cindy Turner, to see if he could expedite a cleanup.

"Sometimes, we can get county prisoners to help with the cleanup," he said. "Other times, we have to do it ourselves if the county isn't moving fast enough."