South Mississippi scientists weigh in on Red Tide - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

South Mississippi scientists weigh in on Red Tide

Dead fish cover beaches throughout South Mississippi. (Photo Source: WLOX News) Dead fish cover beaches throughout South Mississippi. (Photo Source: WLOX News)
A huge dead fish washed ashore the Biloxi beach. (Photo Source: WLOX News) A huge dead fish washed ashore the Biloxi beach. (Photo Source: WLOX News)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Beaches are closed and the oyster season is shut down.

"It's a little bit disturbing, little bit shocking to see it," said Elena Lages, as she looked around Ocean Springs beach.

She's referring to the thousands of dead fish and birds currently covering beaches throughout South Mississippi.

"It makes me question why our water is so dirty and what's being done about it environmentally," said Lages.

But it's not that the water is dirty. Gulf Coast Research Lab Director Dr. Monty Graham said what's happening is a natural occurrence known as a Red Tide, or harmful algal bloom. 

"Typically this time of the year we have a lot of fresh water and those fresh, cold, turbid waters would keep algae like this from growing," said Graham. 

But right now that's not the case. Dr. Graham says a strong El Nino, not enough rain, and mild temperatures for this time of the year are causing the problem. And he said it not only affects animals - it can be harmful to people as well. 

"There a human health issue, it can make humans sick if you eat shellfish that has large toxin loadings in them. You can also if you're walking along the beach and waves are breaking and it aerosolizes the sea water and contains some of that toxin and you breath it it can trigger an asthma attack. It can make people sick, it can give headaches and make people nauseous."

The most troubling part of the red tide is that scientists say since it was so unexpected, they don't know when it will be over.

"This is something that's gonna have to brush out of the system naturally. The best we can do is hope for the right conditions to come along and produce enough fresh water and the winds moving and move these populations out of MS sound," said Dr. Graham.

And Dr. Scott Milroy from the USM Department of Marine Science agrees. 

"Essentially there's not a whole lot we can do. The nutrients they need to survive in the water are there and there's nothing we can do," said Dr. Milroy.

And until the red tide blows over, the beaches and oyster reefs will remain closed.

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