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. banasy©

    Confidential to raven:
    Did you sweep one of these under your rug?

    September 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe Jensen

    i always thought cold water contained more oxygen? hot water boils and oxygen leaves the water, there has to be another reason

    September 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JDuke

      Cold water does contain more oxygen. I can't explain why inversion kills fish, but lack of oxygen isn't it. Perhaps the opposite...too much oxygen.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John Hayes

    There's a mistake in the lead. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, the opposite of what is stated. Also, in low-oxygen fish kills it's not uncommon to find more big fish, which require more oxygen.

    September 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul Boomer

      Correctamundo. Think cold beer vs. hot beer, and why the North Sea (cold as all get out) is such a rich fishery.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • uguf

      This is not always true.
      Hypoxia (low oxygen) in the bottom waters of the lake is common.
      Many eutrophic waters (areas with high primary production) like the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie have hypoxic bottom waters.
      If they are brought to the surface before they have had time to oxygenate this can happen.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • bingcherry

      Cold water can still become anoxic. Look at the Baltic Sea, very cold with deep water that is stagnant and without oxygen, Erie has it's own dead zone caused by too much Nitrogen & phosphorus. Fish kills are normal in the summer months,

      September 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mecatfish

    interesting that they were all bottom dwelling fish.

    September 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Patrick

    10,000 dead fish are on the beach in the morning and during the night a strong smell. Can a rocket scientist go up there and explain this to some of the residents

    September 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adam

    ?

    September 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. phillip

    Obama's fault

    September 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • PB

      Or the liberal media!

      September 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Nope. Bushes fault

      September 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jack

    I thought Lake Erie was declared dead decades ago. Where did all these fish come from?

    September 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • kpconio

      it cam back to life when the union based manufacturing sector dried up

      September 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rob

    Unexplained and reaching for theories as science does, although don't discount the end times is upon us. This is not the only event hurting the Nation and others as well. Stand back and look at all the events, plagues, disease, earth quakes, wars, children against parents, all prophesied. The rise of a religion which will behead non believers. No matter what we do, you cannot stop time or the events.

    September 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      OK Loughner, medication time

      September 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • deathwombat

      Name a period in human history that didn't have plagues, disease, earth quakes, wars, and children against parents. Go ahead, I dare you. A prophecy about such things is about as useful as a prophecy that claims that the sky will be blue in the end times.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jacky

    I just figured out where the maple syrup was dumped!

    September 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      Sweet!

      September 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Razorking

    There is something fishy going on here and I think we can all agree on that.
    The fact that suckers were among the dead is not too disturbing, after all, facts show that one of these is born every minute.
    The interesting thing is – according to the article – "All kinds of people were woken out of a sound sleep by a stench and it was like a septic tank was backing up,” This means that whether you are short or tall, heavy or thin, and regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation you were still likely to be awakened by the stench....I find that to be flabbergasting – to say the least

    September 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. thebeast

    Take all those fish and main fish fertilizer out of it...Do the same thing with the Asian Carp...Catch em with nets and make fish fertilizer...

    September 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      Polluted fish fertilizer. Perfect.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. thebeast

    Take all those fish and make fish fertilizer out of it...Do the same thing with the Asian Carp...Catch em with nets and make fish fertilizer...

    September 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kevin

    alot of garbage fish any how who cares?

    September 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bingcherry

    Lake Erie has a huge Dead Zone of anoxic water, not unlike the one found in the Gulf of Mexico. This is due to excess amounts of nitrogen and Phosphorus from Agriculture and industries.

    Is it possible that this water was to blame?

    September 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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