Is anyone having any blooms on their small lakes or ponds? This stuff worries me.
Dallas Morning News
Toxic, fish-killing algae casting a pall over state's lakes
Blooms this year are worst ever with more than 6.3 million dead
LUBBOCK - For 35 years, Buffalo Spring Lake treated angler Malcolm Eldredge well. That changed earlier this year when the first bloom of fish-killing golden algae appeared in the 225-acre lake just outside the city limits.
"It's just 100 percent nothing," the 62-year-old retired firefighter said. "I haven't caught a fish in nearly five months. It's been over four months since I've even had a bite."
Thousands of other anglers in Texas share his disappointment.
This year, golden algae blooms were the worst ever, killing more than 6.3 million fish in 19 Texas lakes, including Buffalo Springs and all six city lakes in Lubbock.
Lake Colorado City in Mitchell County remains toxic and fish are still dying, making it hard to determine total damage, said Joan Glass, a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who has studied the algae for years.
Fish kills have occurred on lakes in West and Central Texas on the Canadian, Red, Colorado and Pecos river systems, and the Wichita River, which comes off the Brazos system.
The kills are not unique to Texas. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama have all reported fish killed by the algae.
Although it is unclear what causes the blooms, researchers know that conditions that make water salty intensive water use, some irrigation methods, drought, brine contamination from oil and gas production might contribute.
Another probable contributor: population growth near lakes.
"One obvious change that's occurred is there are more houses around them than there were 20 years ago," said Larry McKinney, director of resource protection for the wildlife department. "There's clearly more nutrients being put in these lakes."
The algae is not harmful to humans, other mammals or birds, but it's deadly to aquatic life such as fish, clams and mussels. With fish, the microscopic plant's toxins attach to the gills and cause them to suffocate.
Historically, golden algae has been a coastal phenomenon, and how it moved inland is a mystery.
"I don't know if it just showed up or it's been here a long time," Mr. Glass said. "But we've done something to enhance it."
Since first confirmed in Texas in 1981, the algae has killed more than 17 million fish. The loss in lake stock and recreational business and cleanup has cost an estimated $6.5 million, according to the wildlife department.
Thirty-eight fish kills were recorded in the past 22 years, and large kills started about three years ago. This year's was the deadliest.
Some of the fish killed through the years have included endangered and threatened species such as the Rio Grande darter and the blue sucker, which have made the losses more costly. The state places a higher value on their loss because they are so rare and impossible to replace.
Mr. Glass said researchers have noticed that fish often move away from parts of lakes troubled by blooms.
"The fish seem to know something is wrong with them in the lakes," she said. "They are trying to find a refuge. If it's really, really strong in the stream, the fish will actually jump out. It's a nasty little toxin."
State biologists can't stop the kills because they don't know how to eradicate the plant's toxins in lakes.
"We've got to do something about it," Mr. McKinney said. "It's just too devastating to let it run its course and live with it."
In the next two years, the department will use $1.2 million from revenues generated by hunting and fishing license fees to study the problem, he said. The money was made available through action in this year's regular legislative session.
The department will enlist biologists and other researchers to study the algae's history in Texas, devise an early detection system and try to find a way to deal with the blooms and their toxic effect, beginning on a small scale in hatcheries. In October, experts from around the world will travel to Dallas for a symposium.
In early 2001, Possum Kingdom Lake in North Texas was stricken with the bloom. That fall, the chamber studied the impact on businesses, including fishing guides and bait and tackle shops, and determined that in the five years after the bloom, losses would reach as much as $20 million.