The fishing's great, so what's the problem?
Tue, 21 Aug 2012 22:22:16 GMT —
This has been a great week for Grand Strand fishermen. The flounder catch is the best it's been in years. But scientists say the great fishing is caused by conditions in the water that could cause long-term problems.
Over the past couple of days, fishermen have been pulling up flounder one after another off local piers like the one in Surfside Beach.
"On a good day, you can catch 6, 8 or 10 founder. I mean there was over a hundred flounder caught up here yesterday, so we're talking about 10 times the normal amount of fish that were caught," said fisherman Jason Burton.
Usually, Tommy Werner would be fishing from a boat on a typical summer day, but this week, why bother?
"It's a lot easier to just grab my fishing pole and come up on the pier, catch a few fish and go home," Werner said.
It's not just the heavy flounder catch. Fishermen are also saying that out in deeper waters, their live bait is dying when they bring it up.
"It's like they can't get enough air," Burton said. "When you fish them closer to the beach, where the suds and everything is churned up, they seem to be doing fine, so that kind of points in the direction of an oxygen problem."
Researchers from Coastal Carolina University's Environmental Quality Lab say they're measuring low oxygen levels all along the Grand Strand.
Dr. Susan Libes says it could be caused by a plankton bloom all along the coast of South Carolina. The bloom sucks oxygen out of the water.
One sign of that is the rich green color of the ocean, Libes says.
Libes says the long term consequences are problems for the fish reproducing and the risk of over-fishing.
Fishermen say they do want a healthy environment for the fish, but for right now, "It's nice for the fishermen, as long as nothing's dying, as long as nothing's washing up on the beach or anything," Burton said.
Libes says when the wind picks up, it'll stir up the water, produce more oxygen and the flounder catch will go back to normal.
She credits local governments for funding the oxygen sensors in the ocean along the Grand Strand, so at least they know what's causing the problem.