Many questions arose after the announcement that a new rash of fish deaths had occurred in the St. Johns. Earlier in the summer, a significant growth of blue-green algae led to a widespread fish kill in the river that prompted many to deem the water unsafe.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, this recent fish kill (of smaller, bait-like fish) is unrelated.
Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Commission, says that the FWC’s St. Petersburg lab received 11 samples last Friday, 10 of which were menhaden. “Recent tests [of water samples] did not indicate … that a harmful algal bloom played a role in this fish kill,” she says. “There was no evidence to link this most recent fish kill with the one from earlier in the summer. Our scientists completed an initial necropsy, and preserved tissues to be used in a histology [cell tissue] test, which will likely take five to six weeks. We will continue to monitor the situation and continue to test samples as long as we keep getting calls to the fish kill hotline.”
Some of the samples received by the FWC had what she called “ulcer-like lesions,” which, according to Segelson, isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon: “There’s a history of these kind of lesions appearing in the St. Johns River, periodically seen in menhaden and other estuarine species since the 1980s. Those lesions were caused by a fungus, and the histology will test to see if a similar fungus is the root cause of this fish kill.”
Update: To clarify, Segelson says that the FWC will continue to monitor the situation, regardless of whether or not additional kills are reported. Those wishing to report a fish kill can call the Fish Kill hotline at 1-800-636-0511.