Texas researchers casting for answers to stop algae problem in Texas lakes

COLLEGE STATION Texas researchers are hoping for a golden opportunity to reel in a solution to stop a toxic algae that has killed millions of fish in the state's lakes.

A team of Texas Agricultural Experiment Station fishery scientists this week took water samples from Lake Whitney for a new round of experiments. They are hoping for a breakthrough before winter when the golden algae typically blooms and kills perhaps hundreds of thousands of fish in one occurrence.

"If you have repeated blooms in the lakes, of this magnitude, eventually you'll destroy those recreational fisheries, for sure," said Dr. Daniel Roelke, Experiment Station aquatic ecology scientist, who spearheaded his team's sampling. "And not only that, (if) these blooms get into the state hatcheries, anything that is currently being raised at that hatchery, dies. This is a big problem and greater attention needs to be focused on this problem."

Roelke is collaborating with Dr. James Grover from the University of Texas at Arlington, Dr. Brian Brooks from Baylor University and Dr. Richard Kiesling from the U.S. Geological Survey as a multi-agency team seeking answers for the problem.

Golden alga, Prymnesium parvum, was first reported in inland Texas waters along the Pecos River in 1985. After the initial find, no occurrence was documented until 2001, Roelke said.

That year, algae blooms caused massive fish deaths in the Dundee State Fish Hatchery, about 20 miles west of Wichita Falls, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists. "Bloom" is the term biologists use to describe a huge increase in the number of these one-celled plants in a given area.

Each year since 2001, the golden hues in water and the telltale dead fish in numerous Texas lakes have puzzled water and fish experts, Roelke said. So far more than 25 lakes and rivers in five of the state's major river basins have been identified as having golden alga po

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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