DESTIN – Reports out of Pensacola Beach on Tuesday warned visitors of sea lice, otherwise known as jellyfish larvae.
Purple flags warning of marine life were flying Tuesday and Wednesday on Pensacola Beach, and caused concern for Northwest Florida’s other beachgoing visitors because sea lice can cause irritation if they contact swimmers' skin.
Navarre Beach Fire Chief Danny Fureigh said that as of Wednesday afternoon, Navarre’s beaches were free of any harmful marine life.
“We haven’t had any reports of sea lice and we are not flying any purple flags,” he said. “We have been fortunate and don’t have any reports of sea life at this time.”
As for Okaloosa Island, Okaloosa Beach Safety Captain Justin Cook also reported the beach was clear of sea lice.
“We haven’t had any reports of jellyfish,” Cook said. “We haven’t been flying the purple flag recently.”
However, Cook did note that June grass — the floating marine algae — is present on Okaloosa Island. June grass is not harmful to swimmers.
“It’s been washing up on shore, but it’s pretty typical for this time of year,” Cook said.
Destin was also in the clear Wednesday afternoon on of sea lice and June grass. Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino said he thinks he knows why.
“Destin beaches start immediately after the east jetty, and my theory is that it keeps it at bay and keeps it away,” D’Agostino said. “It doesn’t mean that we don’t get it, but even when we do, the jellyfish are off the beach by 300 and 400 yards. I believe because they are pushed out by outgoing tide. Lucky us, right?”
In Walton County, South Walton Beach Director David Vaughan said his staff hasn't seen sea lice yet, but he wouldn't be surprised if they show up within the week.
"We don't have them yet, but if the wind and lateral currents are moving our way, I wouldn't be surprised if we did get them in the next week or so," Vaughan said. "Typically, this time of year when we see an algal bloom, the sea lice like to hide within the bloom, and if Pensacola Beach is reporting it now, that means we are not far behind. I will be grateful if we don't get them."