Alternate Title

Winter Mass Mortality of Animals in Texas Bays


The Texas coast experienced three unusually cold weather periods in the 1980's, one in 1983 and two in 1989, that caused massive fish kills. Identification of organisms killed and estimation of the number of estuarine fishes and invertebrates killed was accomplished through a systematic standardized approach utilizing airplanes, ground qualitative observations and quantitative counts, and trawling. Of 159 species identified, 103 were fishes, 45 were invertebrates, and 11 were vertebrates other than fishes. About 14 million fishes were killed in December 1983, 11 million in February 1989 and 6 million in December 1989; number of invertebrates killed ranged from 13,000 in February 1989 to 1,000,000 in 1983. These assessments are the largest in area and most comprehensive to be documented in the literature with known levels of precision. Methodology used provides reasonably precise estimates which managers can use to assess extensive widespread kills and subsequent impacts on affected populations. It is recommended that managers consider reducing fishing mortality on the remaining economically important populations after extensive kills to speed recovery of those populations.