It’s back, for the second time in less than two years.
Furthermore, it’s still blooming … an ironic term for red tide, one of the Texas Coast’s most noxious natural phenomena.
According to Stephen Mitchell, Regional Biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s “Kills and Spills Team,” reports of a substantial fish kill began to trickle in last Thursday.
The initial calls came from Matagorda, where at the mouth of the Colorado River beach visitors and surf anglers were finding large numbers of dead fish, primarily menhaden, washed up on the beachfront.
“It wasn’t long before we began to receive calls from fishermen near Surfside Beach as well,” Mitchell says. “People fishing from the Freeport jetties reported large numbers of clearly-visible dead fish moving through the channel with the incoming tide.” Mitchell notes that red tide conditions have been encountered by boaters as far as four miles offshore.
The toxic algae bloom, which can cause watery eyes and even respiratory problems for those unfortunate enough to encounter it, has since spread progressively.
“We know that red tide conditions have already spread eastward up the Bolivar Peninsula to Crystal Beach,” says TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division biologist Winston Denton. “By now, it’s very likely that it has made its way to Rollover Pass.”
Menhaden are currently the primary species affected, Denton says. “Gulf menhaden are less tolerant of red tide than other saltwater forage and game fish species,” he explains. “They also tend to travel in large schools, which accounts for the reason why menhaden tend to show up along the beachfront in numbers when confronted with red tide conditions.”
Like all such algae blooms, the current red tide scenario is constantly changing. To keep the public informed and provide a ready avenue for the sharing of information TPWD has established a special “Red Tide Status” website. Mitchell and Denton stress that since the site is being updated on a continuous basis, for at least the time being, users might experience brief delays as more information is added.
Concerned individuals can log on to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/environconcerns/hab/redtide/status.phtml to receive updates, provide additional as to unlisted sightings and even obtain a link that profiles the health-related ramifications of red tide and how to best deal with its adverse effects.
The department is also listing phone numbers for individuals who wish to talk to a representative by phone.
To reach the department’s Austin headquarters, call 512-389-4848. To contact the TPWD Office in LaPorte, call 281-842-8100.
– Larry Bozka
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