Red tide possible cause of Galveston fish kill

Thousands of Gulf Menhaden wash up ashore

GALVESTON, Texas - The state health department closed Galveston Bay to shellfish harvesting Sunday because of the potential of red tide, which may have also been responsible for a massive fish kill over the weekend.

Crews were on Jamaica Beach early Monday morning cleaning up dead fish that washed ashore over the weekend. Thousands of Gulf Menhaden, or shad fish, laid motionless on the beaches of Galveston.

"We don't have very many employees with the city, so we'll have to hire an independent contractor to take care of this," said John Brick, Jamaica Beach's city administrator. "Hopefully we can get it started sometime today and get it cleaned up by tomorrow."

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife said red tide is caused by a high level of algae that produces toxins that kill fish. The water will be tested throughout the day to determine if red tide is responsible for the fish kill.

"I grew up in this county for the last 50 years and I've never seen anything like it," Jamaica Beach Cpl. Mike Todaro said. "Apparently, it doesn't happen often."

Workers with the city of Galveston began the clean-up at 10 p.m. Sunday, using large dump trucks to haul the smelly fish away. However, as the fish were removed, more dead fish washed ashore. Crews could be working throughout Monday to clean up the area.

Police said the fish were not dangerous, but it's still a good idea to keep your distance.

"It's rotten fish, so you don't want to touch them," said Peter Davis with Galveston Beach Patrol. "Just leave them alone."

"This is pretty wild. I heard there were dead fish in the water but I didn't know it would be this bad on the beach," said Mitchell Schnyder. "It bothered me at first, but then I thought of those Olympians who do open water swimming, so I thought I got to tough it out in the water."

Joyce Sternberg, visiting from Fort Worth, said the dead fish were not a big deal.

"That's OK. I'm reading. Just enjoying the breeze and the sun," said Sternberg.

For more information on red tide, visit

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