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All Mississippi beaches are now closed because of toxic algae



Photo from the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program.
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The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has now closed all of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast beaches due to toxic algae until further notice.

The latest closures, announced July 7, added the two eastern-most beaches in Jackson County, Pascagoula Beach West and Pascagoula Beach East, to the other beaches already closed for swimming, wading and fishing.

“MDEQ advises people, and their pets, to avoid water contact such as swimming or wading because exposure to the blue-green (Harmful Algae Bloom) HAB can be harmful,” the agency said in a statement. “The closures refer to water contact and does not prohibit use of the sand portion of a beach.

“The algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. MDEQ advises that those exposed wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas.”

MDEQ began closing the state’s gulf beaches June 22, in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources warning consumers from eating seafood caught off the state’s Gulf of Mexico shoreline.

Conditions on the Gulf Coast have hit the fishing industry hard.

The closures and warnings come in the wake of a freshwater intrusion from the flooded Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carré Spillway to prevent New Orleans from flooding. The spillway was opened twice this year, in February and again in May, releasing unprecedented amounts of freshwater into the Gulf. The decrease in the Gulf’s salinity resulted in the HAB.

The state’s commercial fishers have seen a catastrophic effect on the area’s seafood, with shrimp and oyster populations decimated. Other marine wildlife has also been affected; unprecedented numbers of sea turtles and dolphins have washed up on Mississippi shores, likely casualties of the lowered salinity of the water and the HAB.

“HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the ‘health’ of local and regional economies,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

For additional information on beach closures, go to the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program website.

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