Harmful, biolumiscent algae bloom causes fish kill in Indian Creek in Hampton


People keep their distance as they watch waves glow with blue bioluminescence from an algae bloom in the Pacific Ocean on a beach that is still closed to sitting in efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus Monday, April 27, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — An ongoing harmful algae bloom is believed to have caused a fish kill in Indian Creek in Hampton over the weekend as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality investigates the incident.

Based on the intensity of the bloom from the sampling in the creek on September 10 by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and VDH, experts believe the fish kill was related to the depletion of dissolved oxygen by bacteria decomposing the dying algae. 

This algal species called Alexandrium monilatum is also 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.

Alexandrium monilatum is an annual marine bloom species in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as its tributaries of the James and York Rivers, and to a lesser extent in the Rappahannock River.

The bloom is bioluminescent at night, producing a blue glow when the water is disturbed and during the day, the algae bloom may appear as a “red” or “brown tide.” Officials say the bloom is likely to continue and may appear elsewhere in the bay and along the Atlantic oceanfront until environmental conditions no longer support the bloom’s proliferation.

While A. monilatum produces a toxin that may kill fish, shellfish and crustaceans, the toxin itself is not typically harmful to humans.

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