It's safe to swim and wade along Gulf Coast beaches again. Mississippi Department of Marine Resources tests near the shore have found none of the bacteria that had shut down both beaches and oyster reefs.
The state Department of Environmental Quality lifted the coastwide beach closure Friday. The lifting of the closure, though, applies only to water near the shore -- from the shore to the shipping channel in the Mississippi Sound.
The beaches had been closed since Dec. 11 by a large concentration of Karenia brevis algae, which became an unprecedented red tide in the northern Gulf.
Red tides occur when colonies of algae grow out of control. It is a common phenomenon near Florida's gulf coast but scientists said it was unusual see it this late in winter and this far north in the Gulf.
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This outbreak, which was helped along by December's unseasonably warm weather, closed oyster reefs and was linked to dead marine life. Dead fish and even a dolphin have washed up on the beach.
The aggressive outbreak seems to be weakening as temperatures drop, experts said.
Still, oyster reefs remain closed and both the DMR and DEQ are monitoring the situation.