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Something’s Fishy

Tens of thousands of dead fish have been washed ashore along Texas’ Gulf Coast.

Tens of thousands of dead fish washed up on the beaches of Texas’ Gulf Coast over the weekend—and wildlife officials say low levels of oxygen in the water are likely to blame.

The carcasses began covering sand in Brazoria County south of Houston on Friday, prompting beach closures and creating a stinky mess for clean-up crews. County officials initially urged people to steer clear of the beaches because of high bacteria levels and sharp fins. On Tuesday, after employees cleared away or buried the dead fish, they gave the all-clear for beachgoers to return.

As summer weather heats up, the shallow water near the beach also gets hotter. When temperatures increase, the water cannot hold as much oxygen. If a school of fish was swimming in shallow water as temperatures rose above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, they may have found themselves “in big trouble,” per the post.

In addition, the nearshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Brazoria County have been calm for the last three weeks, with limited wave action. This means very little oxygen had been entering the water by mixing in at the surface.

Lastly, the region has experienced many overcast days lately. With clouds blocking the sun, microscopic phytoplankton and macroalgae cannot photosynthesize as much, and as a result, they produce less oxygen. Meanwhile, plants and animals in the water continue to consume the same amount of oxygen as they normally do, leading to decreased overall levels.

This article originally written by Sarah Kuta at Smithsonianmag.com. The original article is here.

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