Everything you need to know about the red tide and its harmful effects
Mass numbers of dead fish are washing up along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and residents are left wondering what’s to blame for this mass killing.
The culprit is a harmful algal bloom in the area that has beaches and oyster reefs along the Coast closed. The algal bloom, referred to as a red tide, are large concentrations of phytoplankton that can turn toxic for marine and human life.
“It isn’t just one big patch,” post-doctoral researcher Inia Soto Ramos said. “These are more spread out and in smaller patches.”
Soto Ramos, an expert on algal blooms, said this bloom seems to have started near Panama City before slowly making its way to the Coast.
The bloom is located near the southeastern tip of Cat Island, Soto Ramos said.
Researchers believe the unusually warm weather has created perfect conditions for the algal bloom to thrive.
“It’s a natural occurrence, so there isn’t much we can do to stop it,” Soto Ramos said. “Our job is to inform the public of the dangers this algal bloom can cause.”
The red tide is lethal to marine life and is sending thousands of dead fish to the shores, but it can also be harmful to humans.
“Eating contaminated fish can cause symptoms similar to food poisoning,” Soto Ramos said. “Even being near the waters on the beach can be dangerous.”
Soto Ramos said the break in waves can propel the toxins into the air and pose a threat to anyone with respiratory problems.
“Anyone with a respiratory issue should stay away from the shore,” she said. “The toxins can cause asthma attacks and other complications.”
Soto Ramos and her colleagues are working with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to determine where the bloom is centrally located and where it may move next.
“We are getting samples from the field early Tuesday morning,” she said. “Those samples will help us confirm everything we need to know in order to plan accordingly.”
Researchers urge the public to stay away from the contaminated waters and to refrain from coming in contact with the dead marine life that washes up on shore.