Originally created 11/30/97

Red tide suspected of killing fish off Texas coast



CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Hundreds of dead fish washing up along a beach appear to have died from a fresh bloom of red tide, marine scientists say.

Red tide, an algae that is fatal to fish in high concentrations, may have reached toxic levels in Corpus Christi Bay, an area with a substantial shellfishing industry.

Last week an estimated 6 million bay anchovies died from red tide, scientists suspect.

"That's our best guess right now," said Terry Whitledge of the University of Texas Marine Science Center in Port Aransas.

Scientists hoped to confirm their suspicion by early next week. The dead fish were mullet, foot-long fish not usually eaten.

Red tide is always present in the water, but fatal only in large concentrations.

Scientists are not sure what causes the algae to bloom to toxic levels and attack the nervous system of fish. Only infected clams, mussels and oysters are unsafe for human consumption

Eating infected shellfish can cause, nausea, dizziness and irritations.

An outbreak of red tide last year prompted health officials to ban commercial oyster harvesting for several months, creating economic hardships in coastal towns here that depend on the business.