Some Biblical-type shit has struck Galveston, killing hundreds of thousands of fish and littering the beaches with their carcasses. The first dead washed ashore on Friday, and it wasn't until Monday afternoon that scientists gave this hidden killer a name: The red tide.
It's composed of microscopic algae, which has a reddish hue, and emits toxins that can decimate fish like Gulf menhaden, which swarm through the Gulf's shallows, said Winston Denton, a Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist. Fish dying like some sort of mass suicide usually portend the red plume, which hasn't surfaced yet, Denton said.
The name, however, is what gets us. Red tide? It sounds like a bad action movie, doubtlessly one starring Dolph Lundgren and possible Ice-T. But here's the crazy part: The red tide is a movie. Released in 2011, the plot loosely follows a rural Florida town and a family through their struggles with drugs, violence, poverty, and...algae. A tight narrative indeed. The film's tagline: "It can kill anything."
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So we called back the Coastal Fisheries and got Denton back on the line, starting in with the tough questions: Will the red tide kill us like it says in the movie? "We're not aware of that," he said. It may not make you dead, he said, but a red tide can in fact stir a cough when its toxins hit the surf and go airborne. Your eyes, he warned, may even water a little.
Everyone stay calm. Let's not evacuate quite yet. Though parts of Galveston Bay have been closed so crews can dispose dead fish lining 30 miles of beach, there haven't been any warnings against swimming in the water yet.
Denton doesn't know when the red tide will dissipate, or even take form. The last such occurrence that hit the Galveston coast was last January, which subsided in around a week. This red tide, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon, may stick around as long, or may be here for weeks. Two red tides in less than a year, Denton said, is highly unusual.