MELBOURNE, Fla. - Thousands of small fish have died and surfaced on Crane Creek in Melbourne.
The smell of dead fish and rotting algae plagued neighbors throughout the day on Monday.
"I was walking around and I noticed all the hundreds of dead little fish around the boat. It was just atrocious," said Ingrid Richrath, a boater at the Melbourne Harbor Marina.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believes toxic algae, similar to the type that causes red tide, is to blame.
"We have received reports of multiple dead fish in Crane Creek. We obtained samples and determined that this is likely due to low dissolved oxygen from the presence of Pyrodinium bahamense in the area. Samples did not show any Karenia brevis," the agency said in a statement.
These algae can poison fish but also kills fish by depriving them of oxygen.
"What has happened other times in this area is that there has been such a big algal bloom that when all the algae die and decompose, it uses up all the oxygen in the water and the fish can’t breathe. So even if the algae is not making poison, it can kill things by using up oxygen," said Dr. James Douglass, a professor at the Water School at Florida gulf coast university.
The algae can also cause humans to become sick if you were to ingest a fish from the water experiencing an algae bloom.
According to experts, nutrient pollution can cause algae blooms to grow. This pollution includes wastewater, fertilizer, and other chemicals.
"Algae blooms usually keep going until they run out of nutrients. So if there is a lot of rain, man-made nutrients keep running off into the river, this one might last for quite a while," said Douglass. "Until we do something about reducing our pollution we’ll have a recurrence of these types of blooms. Really, the long-term solution is we have to stop our nutrient pollution -- which means better wastewater treatment and better rules about fertilizer and land use."
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