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."

Post by:
Filed under: Canada • Environment • Fish
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Elmer Fudd

    Oh...just another reason to go grab a burger, fries and shake and pack on the pounds for the already huge average American...great study.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CKY9

    It's naval sonar testing... haven't you seen Mermaids on Animal Planet? Haha

    September 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Taima

    There is one main problem, colder water actually contains more oxygen than warm water. Try again. The oxygen deprivation could be from pollution or algae/microorganism blooms.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • PeterD

      Taima – But the News says Cold Water has less Oxygen because of Lake Inversion. Which one is true?

      September 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Honest Truth

      You're wrong; the colder water is from the bottom of the lake where less oxygen is present.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwestJoe

      Cold water does contain more oxygen then warm water Taima is correct, I don't know how this article got on CNN. They usually just mess up political facts, now it seems like they have just completely fallen to pieces

      September 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ktb515

      you're quite right Taima. This article was poorly phrased. It should say that lake inversion brings bottom water (which is not necessarily colder but is usually less oxygenated due to benthic microbial activity) which is hypoxic or anoxic to the surface too quickly for the fish to adequately adjust.

      cold water does have more oxygen than warm water in the same setting, but this bottom water (while cold) is less oxygenated than surface water

      September 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny 5

      This article is an example as to why our country is 24th in science literacy.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      I was wondering that myself! I know from keeping an aquarium that the warmer water can hold less oxygen. It makes sense that this is poorly oxygenated water water rising up from the bottom. A quick change in temperature can also cause the fish to go into shock. Although, either way it doesn't really make sense for the larger fish to die more than the smaller.
      I remember probably 10-15 years ago I went to visit one of the great lakes to see the beach but there were thousands of small dead fish littering the beach. It was a terrible smell.. terrible sight.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ClubErie

      The inversion theory dosen't account for the thousands of seagulls (birds) by 1000 other news sites.

      September 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • dollar

      you are very correct taima, colder water does have more oxygen, but for how deep the water is in lake erie that causes less oxygen in the colder water that was in the deep. thats what they mean by the colder water having less oxygen for big bodies of water.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. PeterD

    These Fish looks Fatty and Healthy even though Dead. Can you eat dead Fish?

    September 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Yes you can eat dead fish and it's much easier than trying to eat the live ones. They sqirm too much when you are taking a bite if they are still alive!

      September 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rickybobby

    No that was Bumbling Biden!!!

    September 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • redeye

      Biden said that the fish kill was obviously a result of global water warming which he discovered after doing research with his cat.

      September 11, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. pgh

    Hmmm.... fracking, anyone? I suppose we'll never know the real answer since govt is in bed with the energy companies.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dzerres

    Did someone tell you along the way that you were funny somehow? Please. Lame. If you want to leave a snarky comment then at least put some effort into it. Oh wait, conservatives have never been known for a sense of humor. Never mind.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    Allright, fresh Garden fertilizer.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RWGore

    The comment in this article that the fish kill may be due to the lack of oxygen because of an inversion bringing COLD water
    to the surface is questionable because the solubility of Oxygen is INVERSELY PROPORTION to TEMPERATURE.
    That is, MORE oxygen dissolves in cold water for a give volume water then in warm water. So the fish would have had more oxygen available, not less.
    It's more likely due pollution. The rivers and streams, on average, along the border of Ontario are filthy. For example,
    the Ottawa River in Ottawa must be tested almost weekly in the summer for E. Coli to warn people when not to swim, which is most of the time. It's not the fault of the Canadians. They are aware of it. It's the fault of an unresponsive government.
    All of the communities along the Great Lakes contribute to the health of the lakes... on both sides of the border. This kill is just another warning. Another example of the consequence of "The Tragedy of the Commons".

    September 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • RF

      INVERSION, a natural process that occurs every year in bodies of water. the top layer of water sinks and the lower layer of water rises due to the lower layer of waters temperature exceeding the top layer of waters temperature, thus the higher temperature water which contains less oxygen sinks to the bottom of the lake and the fish and other life can suffocate. did you happen to notice almost all of the dead fish are bottom dwellers?

      September 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwestJoe

      RF actually makes sense with this. Although CNN definitely got it wrong. it would also explain why the dead fish are the larger ones, they require more oxygen and also tend to stay at lower levels then smaller fish

      September 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CaraW

    I would rather smell the rotting fish than read another political comment on a story that has nothing to do with politics. Just shut up and vote.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manic Panic

      One of the best comments I've read. Where is the "like" button on this blog?

      September 5, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • G-MEN

      that smell wasn't the fish... it was the Cleveland Indians

      September 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. thegadfly

    What were fish doing in Lake Erie?

    September 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MikeG

    There are fish in Lake Erie; when did that happen? I guess they aren't edible or, rather, they weren't edible.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwestJoe

      Look at the list of fish, they are all junk fish, not seeing a whole lot of Northern Pikes, Whitefish, Salmon or Trout washing up

      September 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JeffinIL

    OK, who dropped the radio playing political ads into the lake?

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

    thanks for the informative post!
    it sounds like maybe the 'sewage' smell was from the anaerobic bacteria in the bottom layer, which got stirred up with the wind that night. But the pollution no doubt aggravates the situation by adding organic material to the bottom of the lake, and nitrogen to feed the algae on top. There are few places left where human influence on nature is irrelevant.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erie Fisherman

      Yes...like I said, the smell is from the old Cleveland Browns stadium that was made into a fishing reef! The smeel from the new stadium is even worse!!!

      September 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Parfin Woodell

    Thousands of dead Republicans wash up on Erie beach.
    Mass suicide ?
    Pollution ?
    Act of God ?

    Local fisherman Derf Whackanutt says, i dunno what killem,
    but they sure do stank.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9