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Golden Alga in Texas

Archived News Release

Jan. 29, 2004

Fish Kill Near Lake Texoma Tied to Golden Alga

AUSTIN, Texas — State biologists from Oklahoma and Texas investigating a fish kill near the Red River upstream of Lake Texoma believe golden alga found in water samples taken from the area was to blame. While the presence of the naturally occurring toxin near this major reservoir for the first time is cause for concern, officials see it as a minor isolated fish kill.

Reports by area fishing guides on Jan. 22 of dead and dying gar and shad in Lebanon Pool, a 150-acre off-channel lake in upper Lake Texoma, sparked investigations by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

According to Joan Glass with TPWD's Kills and Spills Team, all the signs and symptoms of the dead fish point to golden alga. The gills of the fish are destroyed (broken open a cell layer at a time) and bleed externally with the capillaries broken open (hemorrhaging). Although golden alga can be fatal to fish, the Texas Department of Health has found no evidence to suggest the toxins are a threat to human health.

Water samples taken from Lebanon Pool also revealed high levels of golden alga, however, subsequent samples from the Red River upstream and downstream of the affected lake have shown no evidence of the toxin. Lebanon Pool is attached to the Red River on the upper end of Lake Texoma.

Officials are continuing to monitor conditions and are optimistic that this is an isolated incident, since it would take a significant rainfall event at Lebanon Pool to push the toxins into the river and Lake Texoma. "The threat is there, but it's not a direct threat like a bloom in the water flowing down the Red River," said Glass.

First discovered in Texas in 1985, golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) was identified in a fish kill in the Pecos River and has since been responsible for fish kills in the Colorado, Canadian, Wichita and Brazos River systems. This is the first reported finding in the Red River basin downstream of Lake Kemp and Diversion Lake on the Wichita River.

Since 2001, golden alga fish kills have occurred on 23 reservoirs in Texas. Since 1985, golden alga in Texas has killed nearly 18 million fish valued at $7 million.

To help keep anglers and other stakeholders informed about golden alga, TPWD has developed a Web site dedicated to harmful algal blooms. The site will be a "clearinghouse" for information about harmful algal blooms, including scientific research updates and details and up-to-date news during an active bloom.

Visitors to the site can also sign up for an e-newsletter that will provide up-to-date information about algae happenings in Texas.

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Aditional Information:

Would you like to know more?
The Biology of Golden Alga summarizes what we know about the alga and its toxins.

Where does golden alga fit compared to other single-celled organisms?
The Golden Alga Family Tree gives examples of and information about golden alga and other protists.

What does golden alga look like?
TPWD Golden Alga Images has photos of fish kills, golden algal cells, and short videos of live golden alga. These images may be used for noncommercial/educational purposes as long as TPWD is given credit and other site policies are followed.

Golden Alga Information Card: TPWD has collaborated with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and other entities to produce a golden alga information card. Download a PDF from the TCEQ website or request a free hard copy from TPWD at

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