BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Fisheries biologists with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Fisheries and Research took a closer look Wednesday at the impacts of the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening on the Mississippi Sound.
The crew conducted a trawl survey in Biloxi dropping a net, known as a trawl, about three miles offshore. The net is then pulled through the water behind the boat. Then they take a closer look at the fish and other creatures caught in the trawl, taking note of the abundance, size class and biodiversity of their catch.
“This specific project is targeting bait species, so anchovies, shrimp, things like that," said research associate Patrick Graham. “What we just saw was what we classify as a typical trawl. Each trawl is different, but there was nothing unusual about the trawl that we just saw”.
Graham said so far, this survey isn’t showing the impacts assumed as a result of the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening.
“So, for this particular survey, initially when the salinities did start to drop in the Sound, we did see a slight decrease in the abundance of fish species in this project. Since then, those levels have returned to what we would consider normal levels,” he said.
Graham stressed certain fluctuations are common. That’s why routine sampling is important.
USM’s Center for Fisheries Research has been doing this research for several decades, creating years and years of historical data.
“Once this event is over and we can compare this data to prior years, we’ll have a better knowledge of what’s actually been done during this event,” Graham said.
The team is also currently doing additional tests right now in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Marine Research.
“We’ve enhanced our monitoring by adding a weekly water collection project that’s specifically targeted to monitor the effects of the algal bloom,” Graham said.
All of the work done is key to determining what’s happening in the Sound.
The Center for Fisheries Research and Development has been conducting fisheries research for more than 40 years.