Red tide count shows few cells
Testing this week showed red tide levels in Port Aransas were just about as low as they could get.
But a state expert on the microscopic waterborne algae wasn’t ready to declare the problem finished.
A sample taken in the Aransas Pass off the south jetty on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 3, showed only three red tide cells per milliliter of seawater, according to Meridith Byrd, a marine biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
A statewide bloom of the red tide algae over the past few months has caused counts off the jetty and other locations off the state’s coast at times to be in the hundreds of cells per milliliter of seawater. Under normal conditions, not even a single cell of the algae can be found in a milliliter of seawater.
The sampling was done by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. Tuesday’s low reading is a reason for optimism, Byrd said.
“I’m very happy to see such a low count,” she said. “But I’m not ready to call it over for the year. This is just one day’s count.”
Relatively high concentrations of red tide were found in Copano and Aransas bays last week, and an outgoing tide could move that into the Aransas Pass, Byrd said.
Recent cold and rain likely have been the reasons for decreases in red tide levels, Byrd said. But there’s still no way to know when the bloom will be eliminated, she said.
Vapor from red tide has caused folks on the coast mostly minor eye and throat irritation for weeks, on and off .
The red tide also has caused fish kills. But the algae doesn’t make it unsafe to eat freshly caught fish scientists say. If a fish is healthy enough to bite a hook, it’s healthy enough to eat, they say.
The red tide toxin exists in a fish’s guts, not in its muscle, which is the part of the fish that is filleted.
People should prevent their pets from eating dead fish on the beach. If a dog eats a fish killed by red tide, consuming the fish’s guts, it could sicken or kill the dog.