Algae crisis raises awareness, creates problems

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 04:21:14-04

People who live on the Treasure Coast agree – national coverage of the algae crisis is raising awareness.
But it’s creating other problems.

Local business owners, and tourism leaders, say the new challenge is stopping visitors from canceling their plans.

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At Cowabunga Surf and Sport in Jensen Beach, surf camp may look busy.

But at the end of June, when algae first appeared on the Treasure Coast – “everyone panicked, not knowing what it was and not knowing where it was, so we went down from about 75 kids to about 25,” said Brett Miller.

When the beaches closed, the store shut down for several days.

Three weeks later, the water at Jensen Beach is turquoise.

“They get to the beach now and say ‘oh my gosh, it’s so clear! Is there really a problem?’ So you fill them in, you tell them what to look for, and the lifeguards are watching,” said Miller.

Tourism leaders in Martin County are now switching up their strategy to bring travelers to the Treasure Coast after algae covered many of the waterways.

“We know the impact is wide-reaching, especially when you hear someone from Canada writing ‘what’s going on? How are things?’” said Nerissa Okiye, Tourism Director for Martin County.

They’re working to spotlight all the fun things to do in Martin County that don’t involve the water.

That includes creating the website Protect our Paradise,where residents can post pictures that promote the positive.

“Why are we fighting so hard to protect our paradise? What is it that made you fall in love with Martin County? Share these images and help us get the word our as things start to improve. We want to make sure people are continuing to come here,” said Okiye.

They’re also encouraging people to shop locally to help businesses affected by the algae crisis.

“I hope it gets cleaned up. I hope it’s gone. I hope we solve the problem. I hope there’s no residual effects from it, but only time will tell,” said Miller.