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. mandybethmccollum

    This same thing happened by Headlands Beach near Mentor, Oh a little over a month ago. It was the strangest thing seeing all those dead fish..

    September 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rose

    They keep making excuses for thousands of dead fish washing up on shores and birds falling from the air dead. When are we going to hear the real story of what's going on?

    September 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buck

      Yeah, how dare they try to use science to explain what happened!

      September 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ghostmule

      Mayan Apocalypse

      September 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • S

      It's not the fish creating that smell. A gynecologist just set up his practice there a few days ago.

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

    Such a waste.
    In the good old days in Cleveland we'd just throw a match in the river for a great fish fry...

    September 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I saw that one time on the Little Calumet River growing up...

      September 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah

    Some of you are missing the point of all of this – the beach was VERY busy all weekend because of the long weekend and even after MANY people asked if that water was okay for swimming, Rondeau Park staff said yes. The smell was bad and I was not confident to allow my children in the water (esp. on Sunday). People need to figure out what happened and shouldn't have left cottagers and campers in the dark all weekend – if they noticed a problem they should have closed the beach.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      thanks for first hand report

      September 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jokesterer

    Let my people go!

    September 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve armstrong

      Sorry, we're waiting for the frog rain. Then you may go.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. george

    Aren't the Dems the party which preaches tolerance and to never prejudge people? Yet you've both managed to lump all conservatives together as not being clever or bright. Not practicing what you preach, I'd say.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve armstrong

      I suppose there is an occasional conservative of passable intelligence, but I would say the exception proves the rule. If it's a middle class conservative, nah, he's just not very bright.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Conservatives? I thought they were talking about Teabaggers. They're even dumber than conservatives.

      September 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. thesaj


    Cold water inherently holds more oxygen in it than warm water. Granted the lower water doesn't mix as much, but I am not sure this is in fact a plausible explanation. Hypoxia events usually occur when the water is heated and less dissolved oxygen is in the water.

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

      in lakes of sufficient depth, water below the thermocline is very low in oxygen content, and contains no fish, for that reason. Inversion, or turnover, usually occurs when the top layer of water cools fairly rapidly, gaining density, and plunges toward the bottom, forcing the oxygen poor water below the thermocline toward the top.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Frank

    People of the United States of America,
    Whales stranding themselves in Scottland and now 10s of thousands of dead fish washing up on Lake Erie.Large Earthquakes occurring around the world,I am telling you,the Earths Magnetic Field may be shifting,Some Government agency better check this out!

    September 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve armstrong

      some are of the opinion the U.S. Navies' low frequency submarine communication system interferes with the whales.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DeDe

    Oh come on. I grew up on the shores of Lake Erie in a little town west of Cleveland. This often happened in the Summer. That was 40 years ago. This is nothing new,

    September 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. D

    They could collect the fish and take em to the bears out west.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Better yet give them to the soup kitchens for the poor to eat. Democrats been eat'n fried chicken & talk'n smack for a long time a good ol fish dinner is hard to beat.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      make great fertilizer at the least

      September 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cog in the wheel

    Sorry to hear this occurred–but at least it resulted from a natural phenomenon (lake inversion is well-known.) When I was a kid living in Michigan during the 1960s, Lake Erie was declared "dead" due to industrial pollution, i.e. no fish at all. Chemicals floating on the surface was known to catch on fire from time to time.

    Thanks to the Federal govt's EPA rules, Lake Erie and other natural resources have been cleaned. Let's hope the funds for keeping such federal oversight remains available....

    September 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • NN

      You obviously have never seen the Michigan State booklet for food safety of fish which lists advisories for each fish species according to size at nearly every fishing location in the state. All the fish there are contaminated.

      September 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nutsfortreasure

    Reblogged this on Living and Lovin.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobpitt

    All the explanations smell fishy to me..

    September 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wizard2399

    I'm thinking sewage.vs inversion

    September 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kingsnewclothes

    A lake inversion where water at the surface becomes cooler and draws up the colder and deeper waters IN A LAKE that is sludge and waste laced at the bottom WILL bring the smell of that bottom dwelling swill of decomposing waste.
    When the bottom water is pulled up it brings the SMELL so although the cooler water caused the fish kill the practice of humans tossing waste into the lake over centuries supply the SMELL.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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