SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - On Friday, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced a closure to all beaches.
The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) followed suit, closing the oyster reefs as well due to harmful algal blooms in the water.
"It's very unusual in the winter time," said Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Director, Dr. Moby Solangi. "In the summertime, you see them in different spots. It's more common in Florida."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae -- simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater -- grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.
Dr. Solangi, says Gulf Coast beaches experience the harmful algal bloom, also known as red tide, a couple times a year and it can be harmful to marine life.
"None of the larger species like dolphins or turtles were seen either dead or floating so that's a good sign" said Solangi. "But it's too early in this algal bloom episode."
According to Solangi, the algal blooms create a toxin that is carried by filter feeders, like oysters,and can negatively affect smaller fish when eaten, which in turn, affects larger organisms later on depending on the severity of the red tide.
"If this was really a huge thing then we would have seen some damage," Solangi said. "We did not see anything. We are very hopeful that, as this process continues, that this may be a short lived episode."
Unfortunately, the message of beach closures hasn't been far-reaching. Several people were spotted wading in the Mississippi Sound on Saturday.
Solangi adds that it's very important to heed warnings issued by MDEQ and DMR.
"The thing is, these toxins, if you're swimming in the water, can affect you," said Solangi. "You can ingest water. If you eat the food that is contaminated, whether it's shellfish or fish, that can cause some problems."
Although rare, NOAA says the human illnesses caused by these harmful algal blooms can be debilitating or even fatal.