500,000 Die in Algae Outbreak

March 19, 2004

When a half million fish suddenly wind up dead in one place, people start to become concerned.

Fisheries biologists in Oklahoma and Texas showed such concern as they examined Lake Texoma for the reasons behind the fish kill.

Golden algae was discovered in the water and is being blamed for the deaths. While officials say there is no evidence that the toxins are harmful to humans, the effects of this algae on fish life are devastating.

Though the fish were first found by Texas officials on Friday, March 12, the outbreak is believed to have begun March 6.

The fish began to wash ashore along a five-mile stretch on the Texas side of the lake between Cedar Mills and Highport Marina. The largest number of fish killed were threadfin, but largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill also were among those found dead.

The 89,000-acre reservoir on the Texas-Oklahoma border has been monitored for the possible spread of golden algae since a fish kill in January in the Lebanon pool of upper Lake Texoma was traced to the toxin.

Since 2001, golden algae fish kills have occurred on 23 reservoirs in Texas, including a January outbreak in the Lebanon pool of upper Lake Texoma. The toxin also has been linked to subsequent fish kills in North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"This fish kill is of particular concern due to the fact that it took place in the main body of the lake, while the first kill was in the more isolated Lebanon Pool," Paul Mauck, south-central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, told the Chronicle.

"When the algae blooms it kills fish by releasing toxins into the water that cause fish gills to hemorrhage. The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest the toxins are a threat to human health."

Source: Houston Chronicle