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Plankton that turned Cocoa Beach canals 'tomato soup' red return with a vengeance

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COCOA BEACH, Fla. – The same plankton that turned some of this beach city's canals jet red late last month has returned, even redder this time.

One canal at 2nd Street South was tomato-soup red early Monday, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

St. Johns River Water Management District officials said tests late last month of a similar looking algae bloom in nearby canals identified the algae as a species called Fibrocapsa japonica.

The same algae species bloomed in August 2011 in the mangroves east of Tarpon Bay on Florida's Gulf Coast, turning water there similar shades of red.

The current bloom in Cocoa Beach canals is not “the” toxic red tide species of algae Karenia brevis.
But the same algae St. Johns officials now believe is blooming in the Cocoa Beach canals has caused major fish kills worldwide, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It's not thought to be toxic in Florida, but outside of the Sunshine State, the species has been known to produce brevetoxins, the same toxins that red tide emits, which can kill marine life and cause itchy throats and respiratory symptoms in humans.

University of Florida tests of the late April algae bloom in Cocoa Beach canals showed Fibrocapsa japonica as predominant species causing the redness in the water, but also found other species of marine organisms that may be contributing to the discoloration as well. 

The first algae bloom killed dozens of fish. As of early Monday, no dead fish had been reported.