Post-mortem underway after California fish die-off

AP News
Posted: May 19, 2014 10:41 PM
Post-mortem underway after California fish die-off

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. (AP) — Marine biologists worked Monday to determine whether a recent Southern California heat wave, lack of oxygen in the water or other factors might have caused the death of thousands of fish along the coastal waters of Marina del Rey.

California Fish and Wildlife workers continued to remove the dead anchovies and stingrays that created a silvery blanket on the water's surface and a pungent smell that set off a feeding frenzy among harbor seals, pelicans and seagulls. An octopus was also found among the dead sea life.

The incident is likely the result of a confluence of factors, said Dana Roeber Murray, a marine and coastal scientist with the environmental group Heal the Bay.

"They're not unheard of," she said. "I would not tie it to a big indicator that bad things are happening in our environment. It's more like a multitude of circumstances happening at once."

Anchovies travel in large schools and may have been pushed into the shallower, semi-enclosed waters of the marina by extreme tides caused by a recent full moon.

With so many fish in the water during last week's heat wave, it's also possible there was a low amount of dissolved oxygen and increased temperatures that hurt their chances of survival, Murray said.

With numerous boats and reduced water circulation, such marinas are more likely to harbor pollution, bacteria and other toxins, Murray said.

Similar fish die-offs occurred in Ventura Harbor and at Redondo Beach in 2011.

Liz Crosson, the executive director of the environmental group Los Angeles Waterkeeper, said the nonprofit has a boat in that marina and that its scientists plan to be out Tuesday with a dissolved oxygen meter to take its own samples to determine the cause of the die-off.

The group is also planning a cleanup Tuesday for any remaining dead fish floating on the surface among the boats in the marina.