OKALOOSA ISLAND – June on the Emerald Coast has brought more than tourists to the shoreline.
The annual appearance of bright-green June grass has also begun to wash ashore.June grass, an algal bloom, migrates from the center of the Gulf of Mexico and works its way inland when water temperatures rise. Sporadic pockets of the algae can be spotted as early as June and usually last until October before the water temperature cools.
“It’s ecology at work,” said Rich Huffnagle, Okaloosa County’s beach safety chief. “It is the beach re-nourishing itself.”
Although the algae is a plus for the environment, it tends to be a nuisance for beachgoers, according to Huffnagle. When the sun bakes the June grass that washes ashore, it causes a rotting smell that often makes beachgoers pack up and try to find a new algae-free location.
“Bathing in June is not the most pleasant experience,” he said. “It’s like bathing in a puddle of seaweed.”
The algae has already been spotted this year from Okaloosa Island to Miramar Beach. David Vaughan, South Walton Fire District’s beach safety director, said a mild winter allowed the algae to re-appear right on time.
He said day-to-day surf and weather conditions determine where the algae washes ashore.
“We call the algae a critter bed,” Vaughan said. “The only hazard is that baby jellyfish sometimes get intermingled into it. We’ve had reports of that already.”
Beachgoers can visit a blog called The June Grass Report (junegrassreport.com), which is dedicated to monitoring the amount of algae along the beaches. The website offers information about June grass and tips to avoid it.