ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Red tide detected on County beaches

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

The toxic algae Karenia brevis, commonly known as red tide, has been detected in several water samples taken at Isla Blanca Park, officials at the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab reported Friday.

“Today we sampled three sites in Isla Blanca Park. We sampled the boat ramp at Children’s Beach, at the Brazos Santiago Pass near the (Cristo de los Pescadores) statue, and in front of the Coastal Studies Lab,
said Brigette Goza, senior program coordinator at the Coastal Studies Lab Friday afternoon. The samples showed medium to high levels of the algae, she said.

Additional samples taken from County beach accesses 5 and 6 on the north side of the South Padre Island, were gathered late Friday, indicating low to medium levels of the algae near to shore. According to Cameron County Extension Agent Tony Reisinger, 80 cells per milliliter (mL) were detected in a sample taken at County Beach Access 5, while 365 cells/mL were detected at County Beach Access 6, he said.

News of the algal bloom in the Rio Grande Valley comes after reports emerged of the algae’s presence further up the coast earlier this week. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, a small fish kill was reported on the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) near Corpus Christi, according to information posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) website. “(A) very small fish kill was associated with moderate cell densities of K. brevis from the 0 mile marker to the 25 mile marker,” the information reads.

The City of South Padre Island issued a statement just after noon Friday that there was “no evidence to suggest there is red tide anywhere near the City of South Padre Island.” However, just before end-of-business Friday, the City was reporting low levels of the algae.

Results of red tide sampling can vary by the hour, and even within adjacent sampling locations. “It’s patchy, constantly in flux,” Goza said. Part of that is due to the flow of the current, as well as the waves that come ashore.

Reisinger said the bloom is likely at a higher concentration offshore, as he noticed red streaks in the water from the vantage of the County’s north side beaches. He also experienced some respiratory irritation, he said.

Low concentrations — between 10 – 100 cells/mL — can result in respiratory irritation that causes an itchy throat, coughing or sneezing. Medium concentrations — between 100 – 1,000 cells/mL — can cause respiratory irritation, as well as fish kills. High concentrations — those higher than 1,000 cells/mL — causes the same, as well as discolors the water with the rust-colored streaks from which the algae derives its name.

So far, no fish kills have been reported along South Padre Island.

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