Harmful algal bloom believed to be cause of fish kill in Hampton

Harmful algal bloom believed to be cause of fish kill in Hampton
Calm Water Surface (Source: Storyblocks)

HAMPTON, Va. (WWBT) - A harmful algal bloom is believed to be the cause of what killed a number of fish in Hampton’s Indian Creek.

City officials and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality investigated the fish kill that was reported over the weekend.

“This past weekend there were reports of an oil sheen in the creek, however, no visual evidence of an oil or petroleum spill was observed.  Based on the intensity of the bloom, evident in the results of sampling in the creek on September 10 by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and made available on September 13 to VDH, experts believe the fish kill was related to the depletion of dissolved oxygen by bacteria decomposing the dying algae. This algal species also is known to have the potential to produce a toxin which can kill large numbers of fish in the vicinity of the bloom. This toxin is not well understood, but it does not typically affect humans,” a release said.

The Virginia Department of Health says to avoid water that is discolored, foul-smelling or has dead or dying animals in it.

Officials said this type of bloom, Alexandrium monilatum, is an annual bloom species in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as its tributaries of the James and York Rivers. During the day, the bloom appears as a red or brown tide, but at night it is bioluminescent and gives off a blue glow.

“Small waterbodies with narrow confluences with the bay and tributary rivers, such as in Indian Creek, may be more susceptible to fish kill events than those with wider confluences because the tidal movement of water is less restricted,” a release said.

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