BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - For many in the tourism industry, the summer of 2019 will be remembered as the summer of the blue-green algae.
Tourism leaders are tracking the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) monitoring program and hoping for the best. Water contact warning signs, red flags, empty beaches, void of vendors and visitors are still evident at beaches across the Gulf Coast.
The presence of the harmful algae tarnished tourism in the peak months of June and July. Tourism leaders are hoping to salvage to next few weeks and plan ahead for next year.
“Some of our partners and the beach vendors are having one of the worse summers in their businesses, and we will try for more opportunities for them from now until September and be prepared for next summer in 2020,” said Coastal Mississippi CEO Milton Segarra.
MDEQ is constantly monitoring the water and working with the Department of Marine Resources and the Gulf Coast Research Lab (GCRL).
A scientist with GCRL told WLOX they have not seen surface blooms in the the last four weeks. That could be a positive sign of salinity levels on the rise and water conditions moving in the right direction.
Officials at Coastal Mississippi are in constant contact with the agencies. And while realizing public safety comes first, they are simultaneously watching and waiting for good news.
“I know some groups are pushing every single day, but we’ll have to wait for the official position from the agencies. They’ll have to call that and lift the ban. We have heard that it could be in October or it could be in two weeks. We don’t want to speculate about that, and we’re going to wait for the official organizations to let us know when it’s appropriate for us to say that the beaches are open,” Segarra said.
Several programs have been proposed and some are already in place to help people impacted recover from economic damages.