Crews continuing seaweed removal from Siesta and Lido beaches

Piles of red drift algae sit on Crescent Beach on Siesta Key in early August. Photo by Rachel Hackney

Sarasota County crews began seaweed cleanup operations on Siesta Public Beach today, Aug. 20, with the cleanup expected to last through Wednesday, Aug. 22, a county news release reports.

A cleanup of Lido Beach, 400 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota, will begin Thursday, Aug. 23, the news release says.

Cleanup operations are limited to beach areas seaward of the mean high tide line (wet sand) by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The rule was put in place to protect sea turtle nests which had been identified before Tropical Storm Debby caused flooding and beach erosion in the county, the news release points out. Many markings were washed away during the storm, prompting Mote Marine Laboratory to seek state assistance in limiting mechanical grooming of the dry beach areas.

That DEP permit modification is in effect at least until Sept. 8, county staff has reported. Private firms also have been advised that they can do no more than hand-rake seaweed from dry-sand to wet-sand areas.

Increased amounts of seaweed are coming ashore on beaches throughout the Gulf Coast because of Debby’s churning in the Gulf of Mexico in late June, the news release points out. While all Sarasota County beaches have seen some increase in seaweed, most of the material has washed back into the gulf with tides, staff has reported.

“Right now, South County beaches don’t seem to be impacted for very long periods,” said George Tatge, manager of Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, in the news release. “We are at the mercy of Mother Nature, which means we work closely with lifeguards and other county staff to monitor each beach every day and respond appropriately.”

Visitors and residents can get the latest beach conditions by calling 941-BEACHES (941-232-2437)The hotline is updated twice a day.