PADRE ISLAND, Texas — For the last week, crews for the Padre Island Property Owners Association (PIPOA) have been working on Padre Island to clean up the massive number of dead fish in local water caused by the recent freeze. This weekend, volunteers and the City of Corpus Christi leant a helping hand in the process.
“Our staff has been working seven days a week on keeping the canals cleaned up, or trying to keep them cleaned up, and thank goodness the city stepped up and done the right thing by helping us,” said Marvin Jones, the President of the Board of PIPOA.
Just in the canals on the island, crews have removed an incredible volume of fish.
“We’ve probably filled up 50 or 60 dumpsters, hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish, dead fish,” Jones said.
According to city officials, the fish will be brought to local landfills.
Dr. Larry McKinney, the Director of Gulf Strategies at the Harte Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, said once the water starts to warm up, this event can cause a spike in algae forming in local waters.
“They will start to decay and sink back to the bottom, there’s no way to get enough fish out to really make a difference. We can move them out of areas that are particularly odorous to people, around their houses and things like that. What I’d be concerned with is, because when they sink to the bottom and decay, they release huge amounts of nutrients. The main thing that will fuel from that are algae blooms, perhaps red tide, perhaps brown tide,” he said.
Dr. McKinney said most of the fish affected were smaller bait fish. He said the effect from this event can trickle up the food chain, affecting animals that rely on those fish for food.
“A lot of things depend on them. It’s going to hurt a lot of birds, for example, the fish-eating birds later on, because they’re just not going to be there to eat, so that will affect them. Also, the trout and the red fish who eat those,” he said.
Dr. McKinney said local anglers shouldn’t notice too much of an impact on the amount of bait available, but game fish might bite more with the shortage of fish. He said restaurants who use local fish should also not notice a difference, because most of the fish served are deeper water fish, and most local restaurants get their fish from farms anyway. He did say that if birds become affected, local bird-watchers, and the economy that relies on bird-watching, could see an impact.
Since the area has not seen an event like this since the 1980’s, Dr. McKinney believes we won’t see many major drawbacks from this fish-kill event.
“There has been a hit, but I think they will come back quickly if we don’t have anything else that will bother them,” he said.
However, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is conducting research to determine what the long-term effects will be.
“As spring really comes on, and Parks and Wildlife will be doing their surveys, of both fish and birds, we’ll get a good idea by end of March of what the impact of this freeze was,” Dr. McKinney said.