^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Wed, 26 Jun 96 11:41:00 UTC 0000 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Subject: Mystery fish kill spreading Mystery fish kill spreading TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 25 (UPI) -- Florida environmental officials said Tuesday an unknown organism was responsible for the deaths of thousands of hardhead catfish in inland waters along the state's Panhandle. The organism causes internal hemorrhaging and leaves the dead catfish with bloody smears on their mouths and fins, authorities said. The deaths apparently were related to those of a nearly year-long episode of marine catfish kills in Mississippi and Louisiana, but likely not linked to a recent series on catfish kills on Florida's east coast, where the dead fish did not show the telltale red smears, said Florida officials. Only hardhead catfish are affected by the organism, which scientists were laboring to identify. "We are no closer to an answer," said Beverly Roberts, research administrator with the state Department of Environmental Protection. The wave of mysterious catfish kills spread to Apalachicola Bay, a major source of oystersin the region, but apparently was unrelated to an outbreak of red tide authorities said killed tens of thousands of fish of all species in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast. "All indications are that red tide is not at fault," said Joy Mills, DEP spokeswoman. "This seems to be a pathogen that is affecting only one species." Red tide, a natural marine toxin, can kill marine life. Outbreaks of the toxic algae are common along Florida's Gulf coast, especially during the summer. Despite the presence of both red tide in the Gulf and dead catfish along inland beaches, officials said people remained safe along Panhandle beaches if they exercised caution. "There's no evidence to suggest (dead catfish) pose any human health hazard," said Mills. "But I don't know that it's advisable or desirable to swim among them." Swimming in waters tainted by red tide can irritate the skin and lungs of some people, scientists said, adding that catfish have a spiny fin on their back that cancause puncture wounds. Meanwhile, marine biologists were trying to determine what killed eight bottlenose dolphins found dead last week on the shore some 50 miles west of Apalachicola Bay. Red tide or a virus were considered likely suspects in the deaths. Officials said if the dolphins had eaten dead fish contaminated with red tide, they too might have been poisoned by the toxic algae.