South Mississippi jubilee, not algae, contributed to fish kill, DMR official says

jphampton@sunherald.comJuly 16, 2013 

BILOXI -- The fish kill that hit the Coast earlier this month was definitely a jubilee and some of the fish simply recovered and swam away after it was over, an official with the Department of Marine Resources official said Tuesday.

"The conditions were perfect to have a jubilee," Matt Hill, head of the Fin Fish Bureau at the DMR, told the Commission on Marine Resources. "The water temperature was up, the wind was calm, we had a light wind out of the north the night before and we had a rising tide but it had a very slow rise to it."

In a jubilee, many species of fish and shellfish leave the deep waters and swarm in shallow coastal areas. Jubilees most often happen in Mobile Bay.

Hill said the combination of conditions leads to low oxygen levels in the water and that pushes the fish toward shore. He said the light wind pushes the oxygen-rich surface water away from shore as the tide pushes the bottom layer toward shore.

"The fish are swimming in front of it trying to get out of it and they just run out of room," he said. "Basically the fish that you see just made a bad decision. They went left when they should have went right."

Hill said the algal bloom that made large reddish streaks in the water at the same time as the jubilee did not kill the fish.

"The conditions to have an algal bloom also were perfect and we coincidentally had one along with the jubilee," he said. The algae involved can lead to fish suffocating but Hill said there is no evidence that happened.

"A lot of these species were trapped," he said. "They came in here looking for oxygen and they stayed until 12 or 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

"A lot of things like the rays and flounder that stayed in the water, once this washed out, they survived. They swam off. That's why we were urging people to follow the limits."

Some didn't. Interim Marine Patrol Chief Rusty Pittman said about a dozen tickets were issued during the jubilee, mainly for keeping undersized flounder.

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