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. dangle13x

    Temp change. Sorry.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Talon

    doesn't cold water have a higher oxygen content than warm water?

    September 5, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • dan

      I keep an aquarium and was always told that warmer water doesn't hold oxygen as well.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • mpfarrellus

      Yes! Hoping someone would pick up on that.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Nye

      Cold water has higher POTENTIAL oxygen for the fish to use. However, oxygen levels normally deplete the deeper you go. Therefore, cold water coming to the surface could very well be depleted of oxygen.

      *The More You Know*

      September 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • borg

      Yes, cold water holds more oxygen, all things being equal.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Buckshot

    The cause of them dying could be both the turn over and sewage spills. Have you seen what people are dumping in lakes and rivers lately?

    September 5, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bill from GA

    Maybe that missing maple syrup got dumped there.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Brendan

    Normally the only thing that stinks in Northern Ohio are the Cleveland Browns

    September 5, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joseph

      Ah but you forget the Cavs, the Indians, and Cleveland as a whole. And I'm from Cleveland.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. josh

    Catfish can live in low oxygen waters. Has to be sewage or something else causing the die offs.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Myassisdragon

    Well, although it is interesting to read some of the theorys and " the sky is falling" comments, 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 11:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Angler

    Almost certainly from turnover or "inversion". The fact that most of the fish were adults would tend to suggest it as well – big fish need more oxygen. Disheartening, but natural. Erie is huge, and any sort of sewage dump that caused a major fish kill would thus have to be reciprocally huge – a sewage dump large enough to cause this, while possible, would be neigh impossible to miss were it a single event.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Nick

    Jim is totally correct there – cold water does have more oxygen, not less. The comments below a news story aren't supposed to be more accurate than the actual journalism!!

    September 5, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. dollar

    I live right near detroit river, n every year around march when all the ice is melting and the water starts to warm up, if you go down at pillette dock, the whole river is just pure dead fish floating, but I never seen this when there hasnt been a freezing winter to cause a die off. And its usually little fish not all the big ones.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. gisthatright

    Out lakes = sewers

    September 5, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Grumpster

    Now...if this could somehow be repeated in the Mississippi watershed, then we'd have a way to rid it of those flying carp.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. SignOne

    The apocalypse begins.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elmer Fudd

      @SIGNONE...yes...the apolcolypse began with your brain.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Elmer Fudd

    There's something awfuwwy fishy going on awound hewe.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mike

    Can the rotting fish be collected for soil fertilizer?

    September 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • reen

      Fish emulsion makes great fertilizer – that's an excellent idea.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gordon

      Help yourself greenie. Take all you want..

      September 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
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