Bacteria Harmful to Humans from Large Scale Fish Kills in Brackish Water

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Bacteria Harmful to Humans from Large Scale Fish Kills in Brackish Water

In the Indian River Lagoon, a once exceptionally bio-diverse National Estuary that spans 5 counties on the central east coast of Florida, we're experiencing large-scale morbidity across many species of fish in the brackish water. Recently 65,000 pounds of dead fish were collected from the lagoon, particularly on the Banana River, a part of the lagoon with shallow, fairly stagnant water and large numbers of waterfront homes that introduce lawn fertilizer nutrients into the fragile ecosystem. Furthermore, nutrients and fecal coliform also enter the lagoon from septic tanks in the porous sandy soils bordering the lagoon. We've experienced a virulent brown algae bloom of unprecedented scale and duration the last few months that resulted in a massive fish kill.
Does anyone have a method for assessing and predicting the growth of bacteria harmful to marine life or to humans under such conditions of morbidity in a brackish waterway?

Bacteria Harmful to Humans from Large Scale Fish Kills

Hello ElGuapo,
Large scale death across many fish species in the Indian River Lagoon should not be taken lightly. I suspect that the large die off was due to nutrient / chemical loading which led to algal growth which caused anoxic conditions in certain places of the lagoon / estuary. This may have also been exacerbated by temperature fluctuations in the system. While lawn fertilization close to this type of ecosystem is problematic it has probably been a constant for some time contributing to the issue at a slow rate. If this event happened quickly / in a short time, it may point to a very sudden change in the system. A sudden chemical / physical change in the system, perhaps a sudden point source nutrient / chemical loading may have led to the fatal condition.
Have the local officials determine how the fish died? Oxygen deprivation? Toxic shock? Bacterial / Viral infections? I believe it is crucial to determine the cause of death to be able to determine the culprit leading to the fish death.
You question of assessing and predicting bacterial growth in these types of environments is not an easy one. I am not sure if bacteria (or any other microorganism) is the direct cause of the fish deaths. I have not seen such a model for ecosystem growth predictions for an entire group of bacteria that are harmful to marine life.
I did a quick search on marine water related pathogens and found a few good review articles. I also found a very interesting National Geographic article that discussed diseases and toxins harming marine life. Interestingly the Indian River Lagoon was mentioned.
Not sure if this all helped but give the articles a read and if any other questions / concerns, post them and we’ll see if they can be answered.
- Contamination of water resources by pathogenic bacteria

- Pathogenic Human Viruses in Coastal Waters

- New Diseases, Toxins Harming Marine Life

Septic Tanks on the Indian River Lagoon Leach Fecal Matter

It makes sense that the genesis of pathogens in waters such as the IRL is human sewage. Unfortunately are still many septic tanks leaching fecal matter into the IRL in close proximity to the same humans that create the sewage and enjoy recreation in those same waters. While the high cost of connecting those homes to effective sewage treatment may not be justified to reduce nutrient loading alone it could well be justified to avoid a human pathogen epidemic if that is a possibility of significant likelyhood.