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Scientists fear fish kill in Indian River Lagoon is result of red tide

Posted at 9:49 PM, Oct 19, 2018

Fish kills are not only being seen on the beaches along the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches but now, in the Indian River Lagoon.

Area scientists fear thousands of dead fish along the western shore of the Indian River Lagoon in St. Lucie County could be the result of red tide.

They are still waiting to confirm if FWC will test for the possible red tide in the area.

“All signs are pointing to a red tide-related fish kill event,” said Dr. Zack Jud, a scientist with the Florida Oceanographic Society.

First, he says the lagoon is in the right condition to support a red tide algae bloom. “It has the right salinity, the right amount of nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus,” Jud explained.

The timing of the bloom, when the red tide has already been documented in the area, is also suspect.

But his biggest concern is the different types of fish impacted, potentially dozens of species.

“Fish kills happen for lots of different reasons. But, when we see fish kills for lots of different species where red tide algae have been documented, you immediately think the fish kill is probably related to the red tide,” Jud said.

He says that typically rules out a virus or other disease that would typically impact one species.

The Indian River Lagoon is among the most diverse estuaries on the continent. That means there is a lot at stake for many types of species if the system is thrown off-balance.

“[Red tide algae blooms] typically are an oceanside algae bloom. But, it’s not impossible for a red tide bloom to occur in the Indian River Lagoon. That's one of my biggest fears. As a scientist and an angler, I worry that a large scale red tide in the Indian River Lagoon could lead to devastating consequences both environmentally and economically,”Jud said.

He will be among those waiting to see if the impacts die down, or if marine life continues to be threatened in the lagoon.