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***((( UPDATE 09Aug2010 ))*** @ more fish kills reported.
Port St. Joe, Fla:
Something is wrong in the waters of St. Joe Bay. State biologists, wildlife officers and health officials are trying to determine just what that is.
They responded to a fish kill in Port St. Joe and reports of oil near Cape San Blas in Gulf County on Thursday.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the city’s Health Department collected water, air and tissue samples to determine whether the fish kill is a natural occurrence or was caused by oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
A brown sludge covered the water’s surface at the city boat ramp at Frank Pate Park. Port St. Joe Mayor Melvin Magidson ordered the ramp closed until testing could be completed.
“If this is oil or something that’s hazardous to our scallops, we don’t want people launching and going out in the head of the bay and spreading what might be a dangerous situation even worse,” said Magidson.
County commissioners, US Coast Guardsmen and BP representatives huddled nearby, determining how to respond to the fish kill and reports of possible oil sighted six miles off Cape San Blas.
“We want to make sure what this was,” said Commissioner Bill Williams. “Was it related to the [Deepwater Horizon] incident? Was it red tide? [We] can’t answer those questions until the analytical and the scientific approach is brought to bear.”
Hundreds of bay creatures—including flounder, sting rays, eels and other fish—washed up on city shores early Thursday morning. Officials said fish kills and red tide blooms are common during the heat of summer, but a report of possible oil nearby is a reason for caution. “It is significant there were diversified species there of different size,” said Williams.
Vani Rao of BP’s Community Outreach said the company’s involvement in the Gulf County incident is part of its overall response to the disaster.
“The best thing that we can do is plan for whatever happens, attack it immediately, and then make sure that we respond and recover from any gaps that we identify,” Rao said.
Rao said vessels searched the area off Cape San Blas late Thursday but found no oil or dead fish — only a large patch of seaweed.
The fish kill occurred just one day before kickoff of the annual Florida Scallop and Music Festival in Port St. Joe.
“Hopefully, people will still be able to go out in the bay and enjoy the scalloping and the fishing,” said Tim Kerigan, Executive Director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council. “We’re still going to have a wonderful festival no matter what the speculation, or perception or reality may be.”
Officials expect it to take several days for the water, air and tissue analyses to be completed.
Read more: http://www.panhandleparade.com/index.php/mbb/article/gulf_county_fish_kill_under_investigation/mbb7725158/#ixzz0w8mjOYCP