Headline for Featured Item #1 Dr. Michael Wetz Seeks to Unravel Mystery Behind Fish Kills - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
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Dr. Michael Wetz Seeks to Unravel Mystery Behind Fish Kills

March 01, 2013

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Michael Wetz, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is investigating the causes of deteriorating water quality in Baffin Bay, symptoms of which include fish kills, excessive algal blooms and increasing nutrient loads. 

Baffin Bay, which is located in Riviera about 20 minutes from Kingsville, Texas, is a tributary of the Laguna Madre and is considered the “jewel” of the Texas Coast for its recreational fishing opportunities.

Recently, fishermen have noticed a decline in the number of clams, an essential food source for black drum.  Adult black drum have been underweight in recent years, and catches of shrimp and blue crab have declined over the past decade.  These changes in the Baffin Bay fishery may be a result of water quality changes that have affected the entire food web.

                “Just about everything we care about in our bays and estuaries is dependent on good water quality,” said Wetz. “The water quality changes that are occurring in Baffin Bay are very consistent with those seen in other estuaries worldwide that are caused by a complicated mix of factors such as nutrient over-enrichment, land use changes, and changes in the climate system.  The challenge will be to tease apart the main factors that are affecting Baffin Bay’s water quality.”     

In January 2013, Kleberg County Commissioners awarded Wetz $11,500 to launch and oversee a volunteer water quality monitoring program to better understand causes behind these water quality changes and, more basically, how Baffin Bay “works.” The program, which is expected to begin in late March, will rely on local citizens to routinely collect samples in Baffin Bay.

“Our scientific understanding of Baffin Bay is really limited.  In short, Baffin Bay has been neglected.  This study will serve as the basis for other studies that will help to increase our understanding of how this vital ecosystem works,” said Wetz.  The next step will be examine the effects of water quality changes on Baffin Bay’s food web, the subject of a future study by Wetz and colleagues Dr. Jennifer Beseres Pollack, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology, and Dr. Greg Stunz, Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at the Harte Research Institute.

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