Marine life also has been showing the effects of plunging temperatures in local waters. At its chilliest, the air temperature in Port Aransas was measured at 27.5 degrees on Saturday, Jan. 9. Saltwater temps off Port Aransas had dipped to 42 degrees two days later.
Beginning Saturday, the Animal Rehabilitation Keep, or ARK, received 46 sea turtles that had been rescued after being found, cold-stunned and floundering in various local coastal areas, said Tony Amos, director of the ARK.
Only one loggerhead, and no Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were found because they tend to stay further offshore, where it’s warmer, this time of year, Amos said.
Workers at the ARK treated the turtles by putting them in dry plastic tubs in a warm room. Towels were draped over the motionless bodies of some of the stunned creatures. ARK workers treated the turtles also by injecting them with syringes to get more fluids into their bodies.
Amos said he expected most of the turtles to recover and be released into the wild.
The ARK received so many of the turtles that it ran out of space and transferred many of its patients to the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists, meanwhile, said they were closely monitoring the weather because of the cold water’s potential effect on fish.
Scientists said while the saltwater freeze doesn’t appear to be bad enough to close some fishing areas, it could be chilly enough to make fish sluggish and force them into deeper water. This makes them easier to capture.
“The high mortality that a freeze can cause may deplete fish stocks for years,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries Division Science and Policy Director. “Protection of the surviving fish during the few days when they are especially vulnerable to capture would likely shorten the time period for overall recovery of coastal species, especially spotted sea trout.”
Reichers asked anglers to help protect gamefish by not overfishing them during the cold snap.
Mark Fisher, a biologist at the TPWD laboratory in Rockport, said only a few reports had come to that office about sluggish fish. He said some chilled gray snapper were confirmed in the lower Laguna Madre and some fish in San Antonio Bay. Some mullet in canals around Port Aransas may have died because of the cold water, he said.
Texas had three major freezes during the 1980s, including one in 1989 when an estimated 11 million fish were killed.