CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Overactive algae blooms are being blamed for a fish kill in the Nueces River, according to officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
The algae blooms are taking away oxygen in the water, suffocating fish in the river.
This phenomenon is not dissimilar to the ‘Dead Zone’ observed in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Dead Zone is caused by fertilizer from farms in the Midwest getting into the Mississippi River because of water runoff.
That water is then transported down to the Gulf where the nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizer contribute to an increase in algae blooms, like the ones seen in the Nueces River, depleting oxygen from the water.
Dr. Xinping Hu, the chair for ecosystem and modeling for the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, said the Coastal Bend could see something similar to the ‘Dead Zone.’
“All these local water bodies can experience these low oxygen conditions, it just depends on the timing and both the physical and biological factors can be in play,” he said.
Dr. Hu said the drought in the area could lead to algae blooms, like the ones causing the fish kill in the Nueces River, increasing in other local waterways.
“Without a whole lot of fresh water coming in to flush out the system, there is certainly the possibility of the accumulation of nutrients, or fertilizers in the water body,” he said.
Dr. Hu said Texas A&M College Station researchers conducted a study on Texas waterways in 2012. The researchers found a local dead zone in the Texan Shelf, a piece of underwater land that runs the length of the Texas coast, dropping off into the deeper part of the Gulf of Mexico, that was not affected by the Mississippi River.
If a local ‘Dead Zone’ were to occur, it would kill fish in the shallow parts of the local waterways, and push the remaining fish out farther into the Gulf. This would have a huge impact on the local fishing economy.
“Me and all my guys, we live off the water, we feed our families off the water,” said Danny Dorman, the owner of Coastal Charters. “If we’re not booking trips because there’s no fish out there, that would be devastating for us, and if we’re having to run farther to catch fish, in this economy a lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford fishing trips.”