Fish kills found on river; if it’s 25 fish or 1,000, we want people to call

OKEECHOBEE — Two fish kills apparently caused by a common species of blue-green algae have been reported on the Kissimmee River in the last 10 days.

A spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in St. Petersburg said the first kill was reported June 25 around the U.S. 98 North bridge that spans the river.

Kelly Richmond, with FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), said Monday, July 10, that around 1,000 tilapia, bluegill and catfish were found floating. A second smaller kill was reported on July 7. In that kill only 25 dead fish were found.

There were no reports of largemouth bass or crappie being found in either of the reported kills. However, she noted, some reports did not identify the species of fish.

She said the dissolved oxygen (D.O.) levels in that portion of the river were down to 1 milligram (mg) per liter of water. A fish kill can start when the D.O. level drops to 4 mg per liter of water.

Dissolved oxygen is a molecule of oxygen that is dissolved into the water.

“Water samples were taken on June 28 and showed a blue-green algae that could have contributed to the fish kills,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “The situation is ongoing and the bloom is contributing to the dissolved oxygen.”

She went on to say the type of blue-green algae found in those water samples was cyanobacteria.

“Cyanobacteria is common in Florida and in freshwater systems. It can appear in lakes, rivers and reservoirs,” she explained.

Of that first kill, Ms. Richmond said it has not been confirmed because it was reported by a citizen. Crews from the institute did follow up that report, however, by taking water samples from that area of the river.

Ms. Richmond said regardless of the size of the reported kill, the institute documents each one.

“It could be small or extremely large, but we will go out and take water samples,” she said.

“We preach to everyone to make these reports. If we get a group of calls, then we know we’ve got something going on.

“If it’s 25 fish or 1,000, we want people to call,” she added.

To report a fish kill, call 1-800-636-0511.

FWRI conducts statewide research programs that focus on obtaining data and information needed by resource managers and stakeholders. They also: develop and carry out techniques for restoring plant and animal species and habitats; monitor marine and freshwater resources, wildlife and habitats; provide technical support when natural disasters occur; monitor red tides; and, provide fish and wildlife research technical results to state and local governments.

FWRI programs are funded from user fees, grants, state general revenue, specialty license plates along with charges from hunting and fishing licenses.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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