Red tide hits Port Aransas
Scientists testing Port Aransas waters during the weekend measured high levels of red tide, a bloom of an algae that can cause fish kills, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official.
The algae bloom also has been having an “aerosol” effect, sending a peppery smell through the air, said Meridith Byrd, a marine biologist who specializes in red tide and works for the Parks and Wildlife Department. The bloom has been taking place throughout the Texas coast south of Galveston, Byrd said.
Only “a smattering” of dead fish was seen early today along a seven-mile stretch of the Gulf beach on Mustang Island, said Tony Amos, a University of Texas Marine Science Institute research fellow. Amos said red tide likely was what killed the half-dozen or so mullet, but he added that he couldn’t be certain of what killed them.
Red tide doesn’t make it unsafe, per se, to swim in the water, but if there’s a fish kill, bacteria from the dead fish can make it unhealthy for swimming, Byrd said.
Vapor from the red tide can cause coughing and mild irritation of the eyes, but it generally doesn’t cause serious problems except possibly for people with pre-existing lung problems, Byrd said.
Red tide doesn’t make fish unhealthy to eat, Byrd said. That’s because the toxin in red tide resides in the guts of fish, not in the muscle, the filet, she said.
Officials caution that dogs shouldn’t be allowed to eat dead fish on the beach, because they’ll likely ingest fish guts with red tide toxins in them. It could make a dog sick or even kill it, Byrd said.
(Check out the Oct. 13 edition of the South Jetty for a full report on the red tide situation.)