Harrison County

All beaches along the Mississippi Coast are closed as algae blooms spread

Algae bloom is closing Mississippi Coast beaches

A green-blue algae is blooming in the Mississippi Sound, fueled by the Mississippi River fresh water filled with sediments. That algae can cause major health risks and adds to the issues caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway.
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A green-blue algae is blooming in the Mississippi Sound, fueled by the Mississippi River fresh water filled with sediments. That algae can cause major health risks and adds to the issues caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway.

All beaches across the Mississippi Coast are closed until further notice due to a blue-green Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

An HAB occurs when “colonies of algae grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The sand beach is open for sun bathing, however, beach-goers are asked to avoid contact with the water, according to the MDEQ.

“No swim” signs have been placed outside of the effected areas.

The beaches include:

Closures Sunday:

  • Station 19 – Pascagoula Beach West
  • Station 20 – Pascagoula Beach East

Closures remain in effect for:

  • Station 1 – Lakeshore Beach
  • Station 2 – Buccaneer State Park Beach
  • Station 3 – Waveland Beach
  • Station 4 – Bay St. Louis Beach
  • Station 5 – Pass Christian West Beach
  • Station 6 – Pass Christian Central Beach
  • Station 7 – Pass Christian East Beach
  • Station 7A – Long Beach Beach
  • Station 10 – Gulfport Central Beach
  • Station 8 – Gulfport West Beach
  • Station 9 – Gulfport Harbor Beach
  • Station 10B – East Courthouse Road Beach
  • Station 11A – Edgewater Beach
  • Station 12A – Biloxi West Central Beach
  • Station 12B – Biloxi East Central Beach
  • Station 13A – Gulport Harbor Beach
  • Station 14 – Front Beach
  • Station 15 – Shearwater Beach

Bonnet Carre report

Blue-green algae is typically found in freshwater, while red algae, also called a red tide, is typically found in saltwater.

Freshwater has been pouring into the Mississippi Sound since the Bonnet Carré Spillway opened May 10 to alleviate Mississippi River flooding.

The spillway opened only once in the 80s and once in the 90s. It has opened five times since 2008. The unprecedented two 2019 openings have so far dragged on for 76 days, the longest in history when the two openings in February and May are combined. The spillway remains open today.

Gov. Phil Bryant created a Bonnet Carré Spillway Task Force and on Tuesday it released findings from June.

Oysters

Based on the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources sampling for the week of June 10, oyster mortality was higher than 90% for all reefs except for Pass Marianne.

“Oyster mortality on the reefs have continued to increase as the spillway remains open.”

Seagrass

USM researchers surveyed Cat Island on June 17. They observed “the introduction of a low salinity species known as widgeon grass since monitoring began at these stations in 2011,” according to the release.

“While salinity levels started to increase mid-June, USM researchers found that salinity levels in the Mississippi Sound continued to decrease again as winds pushed surface waters to the north entrapping flow from the spillway.”

Dolphins and turtles

For the week of June 16, no dead dolphins have been discovered and one dead sea turtle was reported. A total of 130 dolphins and 156 sea turtles have been found dead along the Mississippi coastline in 2019, according to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and Mississippi State University.

Rivers

MDEQ issued a water contact advisory July 2 for a the mouth of the Jourdan River to the St. Louis Bay. People avoid water contact such as swimming, wading, and fishing. They should also avoid eating fish or anything else taken from these waters until further notice.
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Britneé Davis is McClatchy’s South Region Digital Producer. The south region includes the Sun Herald, the Telegraph, and the Ledger-Enquirer.
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