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. john

    this has been happening in other lakes too..hmmm doesn't the bible say something about fishing dying in the waters hmmm something to think about people..

    September 5, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fishing fool

    The "sewage" smell that was reported was most likely the concentration of sulfur in the water from down deep as the lake turned over. Lack of oxygen is the culprit for the fish die off. Water down deep doesnt hold oxygen as well because of pressure. Doesnt take a genius to see what happened there, just a little thought. Rapid temperature change could also be to blame.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. don eli

    Just for clarification-this is the Southern shore of Lake Erie. Not the Northern Shore. That would be Canada's side.!

    September 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. eric jarvie

    p.s forgot to mention the chemical effect and procceses of turnover (inversion in the u.s) and sewer,converting all that oxygen present in the lake into a deadly nerve agent to the fish, which clearly asphyiciated.one other point ,waste in transit along a water course is usually in a dangerous state of degradation since its close to a safe escape (the lake) and its nothing like the human waste your domesticty produces (well it doesnt have to be does it) its thick with agro-chemicals from farming and if the area around the lake is a national park well thats only to insure you the public provide the access and act as managers and reporters for the alternate nature of natuaral parks and some reserves which not only transit our waste but our energy supplies and water needs.But are more often than not the very source of these items, think hydo-electric programmes,water resevoirs chuck in some picnic areas and of course bears and the public beleives its all natuarl....but its not its farming for water energy or resource but we get an opportuniy to enjoy the beauty of nature provided very thankfully from the state. so please learn these things and be truly appreciative and greatly concerned...!

    September 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick kelley

      You need to check see if someone dumped highly toxic chemicals into the water that night . Commercial shipping may be the culprit ocean going vessles maybe dumpping hazardous waste after entering our ports . Another thing Terrorist
      may be playing with the lake to see if they can kill a lot of people . Possibillities ocean ships pumping their bilges as the pass through at night . MOST LIKELY

      September 6, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      When the lake turns over like that it's not just low levels of oxygen that come with the bottom water but also high levels of methane from rotting materials on the lake bottom. This accounts for the "sewage smell". The lake's oxygen is never "converted" into anything that kills the fish. Put down the pipe, dude!

      September 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eric jarvie

    one final point particularly for you americans. there is no such thing as free lunch,yes even a packed lunch..! turnover is a natuarl process and does not result in environmental disater and equate to the death of fish.indeed its anything but.its a rich source of natuarlly occuring nutrient to the betterment of all the habitat of the lake. what youve witnessed is a man made disater and beleive me you shouldnt suffer that.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      If you wanna be one of those "holier than thou" idiots you can restrict your comments to Canadian sites and leave the American ones to us repugnant Americans, heh?

      September 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Birdman

    Any volcanic activity under lake Erie?
    Bottom dwellers.
    Sewage smell night before.
    Sulfur Dioxide smells like rotten eggs.
    Volcanoes belch Sulphur Dioxide!

    September 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • sativa619

      In the far, far prehistoric past, yes, the area did have volcanic activity, but this was over 20,000,000 years ago, and no activity occurs there today. Natural gases can escape with no volcanic activity.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joe barrett

    They don't know what they are talking about. May as well say the fish angered the gods and are being punished. The Lower Great Lakes are dying from Conveyor Disruption. If you google Joe Barrett/ Ice Boom and read "Ice Boom Theory" you will see the fish are in an ever increasingly dirty fish tank. They most likely died from botulism or suffocation caused by the enormous amount of detritus decaying out there. What used to clean the system for about 12,000 years has been stopped by the New York Power Authority "Ice Boom". They are arrogant and defiant and don't care one iota about our Lakes. It's up to you to help me. thank you. Joe Barrett

    September 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    My first thought is that the drought condition reduced the amount of run-off filling the lake combined with the chemicals used to combat the annual “toxic algae” bloom created an environment that does not play well with life.

    September 6, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lord Cthulhu

    The dead fish are all over the south shore too. Nasty days at the beach this summer.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sohbet Odalari

    Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. This is a really smartly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I'll certainly comeback.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Linda

    Regardless of the cause, whatever is causing it is something we need to be concerned about. Rather than foolishly attacking one another, we could do a whole lot more good if we consciously joined together with the positive intention to find and resolve this issue. Send up your prayers and positive intentions, or if possible, get involved. Go make a difference if you can. But focusing on the negative aspects (the smell) or your fears, and attacking each other is not going to help the situation one bit. We all have to live on this planet so do whatever you can, however big or small. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. Or, if you prefer, you can just continue to worry and be mean and miserable.

    September 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sativa619

    This could be the release of gases underwater as well.

    September 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kody

    I think it's bad that fish are swimming in trash

    September 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JK

    Probably due to Hydrofracking somewhere nearby...

    September 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Earth Science Teacher (Richard Reeks)

    One major point in the original article...cold water holds MORE oxygen than warm water! Ergo, the statement about the inversion is incorrect! Every summer there are fish kills in shallow lakes due to the water warming....

    September 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Capt. Thomas Marks

      You are correct cold water will "hold" more oxygen. However you do not fully appreciate the dynamics of the lake. Each summer a thermocline sets up. The thermocline is a boundray between warm surface water and cold deep water. The two layers do not mix. The water above the thermocline is well oxygenated from wave action plants etc. Below there is no refreshing of oxygen from the surface oxygen is depleted through the season by decay from dead plants and animals and other biological activity. In an upwelling event cold water from below the thermocline is pushed to the surface, fish trapped at the surface are caught in this oxygen starved water, thermal shock, also makes it hard for them to get to more suitable water. Also distance to the "better" water plays into their ability to escape the poor water conditions. I have simplified the explanation but I think you can understand what happens in an upwelling. One point the layer below the thermocline is thin relative to the water above, this makes it easy for the cold water to become oxygen starved in the deeper eastern basin of Lake Erie upwellings occur as they do in Lake Ontario and the other bigger Great Lakes without any large scale die-offs. This is because the cold water layer is "thicker" (greater volumn) and is less inclined to become starved of oxygen just because it is a lot more water. In the central basin of lake Ereie we are only talking about a thin layer below the thermocline maybe a couple feet in large areas.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
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