As the toxic algae bloom continues to take a toll on Coast beaches, the USM Center for Fisheries Research and Development team is studying its effects on marine life. The group went out today to Biloxi Bay to analyze how species are responding to the changes.
When things change, you react. With the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway and recent development of toxic algae bloom, the USM Center for Fisheries Research and Development has begun their research on waterways. Fisheries Biologist Patrick Graham said, “We’re continuing our normal sampling. We’ve enhanced our sampling adding weekly water sampling throughout the Mississippi Sound to monitor the effects of the algal bloom and the freshwater influxes. Our normal sampling has continued business as usual.”
Included in their research is a monthly trawl survey, which collects different marine life to analyze the growth and logistics of different species. “This particular survey is targeting common bait fish species, shrimp, fish, and different crab species just to look at both the abundance, the distribution, and the overall size range of these species over time.”
While the negative effects of the toxic algae bloom are evident here on the Coast beaches, the trawl surveys in Biloxi Bay are saying something completely different. “During the early weeks of the opening of the spillway, we did see a decrease in overall abundance of fish for this project. Since that point, those abundances have returned to what we consider normal levels. I think at this point it is too early to tell the overall effects of the bloom so far.”
The center has conducted fisheries research in the Mississippi Sound for 40 years and will compare the abundance data to years of numbers to see the true effects. “Once this event is over, what we can do is go back and look for differences between during this event and years prior during normal conditions.”
The survey did not focus on the condition that the marine life is in as a result of the algae and the species showed no signs of apparent issues.