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. RichWW2

    That smell isn't the fish, it's all of Cleveland.

    September 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Razorking

    Reports coming in now describe the stench as a big pile o Mitt

    September 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wildone

    It may be a response to all the discussion about Canadian oil shale exploration and exploitation that will turn the fresh water of the Great Lakes into the Dead Seas.

    September 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      hmmmm.... I'm pretty sure I know who to blame for this... George Bush.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      If you're looking for someone to blame for the destruction of the Great Lakes, look no further than the companies that dumped trillions of gallons of PCB and mercury (among other carcinogens) into them in their greedy quest for profit. They treated the Great Lakes like their own personal garbage dump and now you can't even eat the fish from them without exposing yourself to cancer causing chemicals.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. raven

    Im still waiting for the old blind man joke.....

    September 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • pga13

      Morning ladies !

      September 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • debbie

      watching the sopranos too much

      September 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Doog

    Hasnt this happened every year for uhhhh as long as I can remember? And every year everyone freaks out! Heres an idea: Its been 100 degrees for almost 3 weeks strait, then all of a sudden it drops down to 70 degrees during the day and 50's at night. Think that has anything to do with it? It isnt rocket science people!

    September 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wildone

    The smell of dead fish on the shores of Lake Erie is nothing compared to the stench of inactivity permeating America's "Do Nothing" Congress. (Meanwhile American voters hold their noses and it's business as usual.)

    September 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. benben7754

    It smells like San pablo.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. THX1953

    Interestingly most of the species sited are Bottom Feeders.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vad

      That was an interesting fact. Glad to see someone made a note of the article and didn't use it to push their political beliefs that nobody really wants to hear. Something the bottom feeders are ingesting is as good an explanation as any. I am curious to what really caused this but am not going to jump to conclusions yet.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • mandfkiwsa

      Yes, that is interesting and goes against the theory that oxygen deprivation killed the fish, because these fish would already be used to the oxygen levels at the bottom layer. Also interesting the "the water was tested for oxygen, PH levels, conductivity and temperature" which would not tell us much about many types of contaminants.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Christopher Persaud

    We might know how it happened. Do we know why? Do not rule out the supernatural.

    I knew you would laugh, but again I say – do not rule out an act of God!

    September 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • butch

      Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

      I believe this event counts. Your god said he would never do this kind of thing again. Take the time, occasionally, to stop beating your bible and actually read the d a m n e d thing.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Burbank

    Don't blame that person for not allowing the dog to go there. Dogs love to roll in rotting carcases!

    September 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • vondavis51

      Oh yeah...(LOL) you'll definitely want to keep your dog(s) off the beach!

      September 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. drkno

    well, now it is certain: Canada stinks

    September 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Odd this odor would occur as the Browns train for thier first game.........coincidence...????.....I think not

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

      Well Bob...you know, I am an advid Steelers fan...I can tell you the Browns stink way worse than the smell of dead fish. I fish the man made reef of the old Browns stadium in Lake Erie...the fishing over that reef is just like the days of old, you just can;t score. Go Steelers!!!

      September 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. the geologist

    Lots of lakes do this.. especially lakes with high Carbon monoxide content.. the water in the lake gets rolled over once to twice a year during the changing of the seasons (winter/spring into summer, summer/fall into winter)... completely natural

    September 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Erie Fisherman

    I have lived on Lake Erie's Central Basin in Cleveland for 20 years. I have seen many dead fish in the fall, but not quite this magnitude. It is very possible when the "Lake Rolls Over" that it could deprive fish of oxygen and kill them. The odor could be attributed to Zebra Mussels...Gobies, and other fish speicies eat them and leave thousands of crushes shells on the lakes floor. There are many other that just die stuck to their nest...when the lake turns in the fall I always see mounds of them washed up to the shore...could be what the locals smelled? I think the heat of this year had a lot to do with it...just my take and experience with Lake Erie.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the geologist

    Lake water rollover can also happen when the surface water cools very fast, while the water underneath is warmer, this causes surface water to sink to the bottom and warmer water from underneath to rise to the surface, this can cause all kinds of problems like stirring up polution, reducing dissolved oxygen.. upsetting ecosystems

    September 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
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