Tens of thousands of dead fish stink up Lake Erie shore
Tens of thousands of dead fish are stinking up a 25-mile stretch of Lake Erie shoreline.
September 5th, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Tens of thousands of dead fish stink up Lake Erie shore

Tens of thousands of dead fish have washed up on a 25-mile stretch of Lake Erie's northern shore, and Ontario environmental officials say they could be victims of a natural phenomenon called a lake inversion.

The inversion brings cold water, which has lower oxygen levels, to the lake's surface and fish suffocate.

"Essentially it's a rolling over of the lake," Ontario Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan told The Chatham Daily News. "Something whether it be a storm, or cooler temperatures at night, or strong winds triggers a temperature change in the lake."

Jordan said it was windy and choppy on the lake Friday night, according to a report in The Windsor Star. The fish kill was reported Saturday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the central basin of Lake Erie, between Cleveland on the south and Chatham, Ontario, on the north is particularly susceptible to oxygen deprivation, with the danger peaking in late August and mid-September.

Others suspect a sewage spill may have something to do with the fish kill.

David Colby, chief medical officer of the Chatham-Kent district where dead fish litter the beaches, told The Windsor Star that residents reported a strong sewage smell the night before the fish washed ashore.

“All kinds of people were woken out of a sound sleep by a stench and it was like a septic tank was backing up,” The Windsor Star quoted Colby as saying.

But Jordan said tests of lake water taken Saturday showed no signs of what might have killed the fish. The water was tested for oxygen, PH levels, conductivity and temperature, she said.

"The ministry did not observe any evidence of a spill or pollution and water quality measurements done did not show anything unusual," Jordan told CNN.

The investigation was continuing, she said.

The dead fish included carp, sheepshead, perch, catfish and suckers, the Daily News reported, and Colby said most were of good size.

"I haven't seen anything like this in quite some time," the Daily News quoted him as saying. "The interesting thing is that most of the fish are sizable. There are very few little ones."

Jordan told the Toronto Star the cleanup of the fish has yet to begin.

“We are having discussions with Environment Canada, the health unit and natural resources about that now,” the Toronto Star quoted her as saying.

Meanwhile, residents said the smell of rotting fish is overpowering.

"I had family here (on Monday) and I didn't allow them to take the dog or the children down to the beach," Chatham-Kent resident Patricia Pook told CNN affiliate CBC News. "I knew it was bad, but the smell is just overwhelming. It would make you sick to your stomach."

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Filed under: Canada • Environment • Fish
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Tim1991

    This is a stinky situation.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. EdL

    They could be victims of a natural phenomemon called a lake inversion, Ontario environmenal offiials say. Then they could also they could not be. It could rain tomorrow, and it could not.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joe Hefferon

    Look closer – the people who tested the water for sewage are probably the ones who dumped it. Shame

    September 5, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bobbyb

    Avoid the fish fry this weekend at the area restaurants.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lee Oates

    Well, when a couple of thousand dead humans wash up on the beach, we will most likely react with a little more curiosity as to its cause. Then again, most likely not.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ArchieDeBunker

      If they're politicians no one will know the difference – or be concerned.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Talkinknowledge

    spokeswoman Kate Jordan told The Chatham Daily News. "Something – whether it be a storm, or cooler temperatures at night, or strong winds – triggers a temperature change in the lake." SORRY..... NICE TRY ON THAT ANSWER!! The melting of our Polar Caps into our lakes, streams etc, is causing the temperature change! Cause and effect of GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!!!!!!

    September 5, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ArchieDeBunker

      Yep, sure, Global Warming. The water temperature got colder because of Global Warming! And, OF COURSE, global warming is, without a doubt, caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Inconvenient truth that blows up that theory: Higer CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere always FOLLOW global warming – not cause it. Yes, there has been a teeny amount of global warming (like about .2 degrees centigrade), no it did not cause the fish kill. Yes there have always been periods of global warming (like the one in the 1600s that was far greater than anything we've seen since) – and guess what? The ice caps retreated to the point that the polar bears had to go on land. And guess what? The polar bears survived – and so did the people! Imagine!

      September 5, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Martoon

      Yes, all the melted water from the polar ice caps is running down the 106 past Kitchener and right into Lake Erie. Makes for some great kayaking... DUH

      September 5, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Myassisdragon

      Nothing new here. This is a natural occurance that happens every couple of years. I can remember this happening every few yrs since I was a child almost 50 yrs ago. CNN must be short on sensational stories today

      September 5, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • dollar

      what we call global warming is actually a cycle our earth goes threw. This has happened to our earth already in the far past. This is what happens before our earth is due for an ice age.
      Everything must melt before it freezes over again.
      There is proof this has happened before.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • MDAT

      Dollar wrong.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • dollar

      actually not wrong... we have had ice ages before

      September 7, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. CDFISH

    The fish all seem to be bottom feeders...fish that typically can live in some of the crappiest of water. They don't mention any species that people consider target game fish other than maybe perch.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Martoon

      An intelligent observation. Thanks!

      September 5, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • dollar

      this is true, the treatment plants use carp around colchester. n thats for where the septic tanks r brought to be filtered so obviously carp can live in some very (no pun intended) crappy water.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. discountbistro

    Interesting that they tested for everything including oxygen levels and came up with nothing. While there are many times that there has been earthquakes underwater and tsunami's across the world proving to kill off fish and sea life. Thailand is a very good example. The more shallow the water, the more damage it will do to the marine life.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jim

    This is totally FALSE: "The inversion brings cold water, which has lower oxygen levels, to the lake's surface and fish suffocate." Solubility of oxygen INCREASES as water temperatures DECREASE. Cold water has MORE oxygen in it than warm water. Whoever came up with this theory is an idiot.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • FF

      good point Jim, I also scratched my head after reading that.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • bandit109

      Jim, you have the solubility factor correct, but there's a more dominate process that is responsible. In the ocean and in freshwater systems, deeper water is lower in oxygen due to 1.) longer time since it's taken in oxygen from the atmsophere and 2.) bacteria remineralizing dissolved organic carbon into dissolved inorganic carbon. Both of these create undersaturated oxygen conditions. If then you get an event that mixes this water to the surface, the fish can suffocate similar to what happened here.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      OK- well if that's the case than it's a poorly written and misleading. Should be:

      "The inversion brings BOTTOM water, which has lower oxygen levels, to the lake's surface and fish suffocate."

      September 6, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. The guy

    It could be because of our destruction of waterways over the past 300 years.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ArchieDeBunker

      Huh?

      September 5, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • nolongerarepublican

      Not with Lake Erie.
      Water flows South, not North.
      But we have really messed up our waterways, I agree with that for sure.
      More likely some corporation dumping toxins in the lake for more profits while paid off regulators look the other way.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. ArchieDeBunker

    Being a liberal, you wouldn't notice the smell – even if you were right down amongst the rest of the dead fish.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ug

    They are all libs.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. nolongerarepublican

    And all Romney did was stick his foot in the lake.
    WOW!

    September 5, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Buckshot

    What a coincedence, we have that same stinky smell coming from Washington DC.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. yvonne

    I dont believe it! Something else is going on! Solar storms can cause these things also.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • seyedibar

      It's a natural phenomenon that's been recorded for centuries. In some places in the south they refer to it as a "jubilee" because.. well, free fish!

      September 5, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • philohio

      Radiation Spike Follows Nuclear Reactor Leak
      Iowa City Owl – ‎Jun 13, 2012‎
      According to Reuters, a nuclear reactor in Michigan was shut down on Tuesday due to a leakage from a refueling water tank, according to a report from the U.S.
      This contact with the reactor makes the water highly radioactive.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
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