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As red tide ebbs, another algae threatens oyster season

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Feb. 8, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Updated Feb. 7, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.


HOW TO LEARN

Call the Texas Department of State Health Services for updates on state waters opening for oyster season at 800-685-0361.

Red tide is slowly clearing from Texas waters, but dinophysis, another toxic algae bloom, has been spotted in some of the bays, another blow to the Texas oyster industry this season.

Dinophysis was found in rising concentrations in the waters of Port Aransas and in Surfside Marina near Freeport.

Unlike red tide, this algae does not kill fish or give people breathing problems, but it is toxic to oysters.

Dinophysis algae tends to show up in state waters every spring, Meredith Byrd, a marine biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, said. The algae is short-lived as the blooms only last for a month or two and oysters tend to quickly purge the toxins.

The oyster harvest has been slow to start this season because of red tide that has been found in waters from Galveston Bay to South Padre Island. Red tide kills fish and makes oysters toxic.

And the Texas Department of State Health Services has kept most of the state waters closed to oyster harvesting because of the red tide.

Espiritu Santo Bay and San Antonio Bay were opened at the end of January, but San Antonio Bay was subsequently closed again by officials with the state health department.

Parts of Galveston Bay have been cleared by the health department and are slated to open Thursday. Espiritu Santo Bay and areas 1, 2 and 3 of Lavaca Bay remain open for harvesting.

However, Byrd said that the appearance of dinophysis in the water poses another obstacle to opening all of the bays. In addition to testing the waters for red tide, health department officials will still need to do testing for dinophysis before they can clear the bays for harvesting, creating another delay.

"It's another test they have to pass before the waters can be open. It's another delay," Byrd said.

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