OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) – Some 10,000 baby Blue Crabs looked active and healthy as they scurried about in their tanks Tuesday morning. But, the crabs have been suffering during the lingering hard freeze.
"This particular time, it just got too cold, too quick," said Dyan Gibson, a graduate student who is studying the Blue Crab population. "They stopped growing. They stopped eating and they basically have been in this state for several weeks."
Four buildings at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at Cedar Point in Ocean Springs are not enclosed. So recently, researchers installed Plexiglas windows and screens to shield the marine life from the bitter cold. They also set up propane heaters to help raise the air and water temperatures.
"The temperature's gone up about 10 degrees Celsius so far. And we're starting to see some movement into the bio barrels, like they're getting ready to molt and grow again. So that's wonderful," said Gibson.
In the green house next door, workers were also cranking up the heat to protect thousands of Speckled Trout. That's because the heat pump can't keep the water warm enough when it gets too cold outside.
"We like to have healthy, happy fish. And so when we had a prolonged cold snap, yeah, we became concerned," said Dr. Reg Blaylock, the Assistant Director of the Marine Aquaculture Center at GCRL. "Once you get down into the 40s, they start having difficulties. So we try to keep them well above that to avoid any unnecessary stress on them."
The fish and crabs are vital for research and replenishment projects. Researchers must do what they can to make sure the tiny creatures survive and thrive during this cold spell.
"Oh, they're doing great. They're active and eating and they appear to be growing. That's exactly what we want," said Gibson.
Researchers say fish can die if the water temperature drops into the 40s. Their goal is to maintain the temperature at 50 or above.