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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dead fish reach Del. beaches
While vacationers deal with stench, bacteria could prompt swimming ban


By JEFF MONTGOMERY
Staff reporter/Del.Onling
08/04/2004


Evidence of a massive ocean fish kill washed ashore at Delaware and Maryland resorts late Tuesday as state officials hoped a gathering storm would push the "slick" of dead fish far out to sea.

Environmental agencies estimated as many as a million adult Atlantic croaker carcasses littered the ocean surface off Ocean City, Md., and southernmost Delaware. Thousands already had been picked up off local beaches by evening.

One researcher said frigid water may have doomed the fish. Huge schools of the popular sport and commercial fish reportedly departed the Chesapeake Bay three weeks earlier than usual this year, then slammed into deeper offshore waters where temperatures had fallen to 40 degrees.

"This is most unusual. Never in my career have we experienced a kill of adult croaker in the summer," said Roy W. Miller, fisheries section administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, who has been with the agency for nearly 30 years. Miller said a Coast Guard helicopter flyover late Monday reported "lots of fish" in the water, close enough to threaten beaches if the wind pushes them landward.

Miller said the masses of rotting fish in the water sent a stench onto local beaches. Officials said they hoped winds from Hurricane Alex would push the dead fish away from shore as the storm passes during the next few days, although tropical winds also could move the fish landward.

The floating mass of decomposing carcasses raised concerns that bacteria levels could rise in the ocean along popular tourist spots in both states, forcing a temporary swimming ban. The Coast Guard reported seeing scattered mats of dead fish spread across a 100-square-mile area.

"I've been flying for the Coast Guard for a year and a half now, and I've not seen something like that before," said Lt. Kevin D'Eustachio, who broke off a Homeland Security patrol Monday to make the aerial survey.

Divers near Assateague Island, Md., had reported a long, dense "slick" of dead fish Saturday, Maryland officials said.

"You had fish that were swimming around in fairly warm, 60-degree water and then the temperature dropped into the 40s," said Richard McIntire, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. "Croaker at their best can only stand it down to about 38."

Larry Smith, a manager at Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick Island, said he had heard reports of fish marring a few seaside strolls Tuesday.

"We've got an awful lot of croakers this year, and we've had an awful lot of strange weather," Smith said.

The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Atlantic croaker as the most frequently caught species for Atlantic and Gulf coast recreational fishing in 2002, with 12.4 million fish harvested and another 14.5 million returned to the water that year.

"This is not going to wipe croaker out. We still have croaker in the Delaware Bay and they're still being caught, but that's a lot of fish to be potentially washing up on the beach. They're 12 to 17 inches long," Miller said.

DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes said his agency would step up monitoring of beaches for bacterial pollution. He urged visitors to avoid the fish and keep children clear of shallow and isolated tidal pools where carcasses and scavenging birds can collect.

State officials have organized cleanup teams and contacted oceanside municipalities, Hughes said. Neither state issued beach closings for today, but Hughes said DNREC had collected 2,000 fish by early Tuesday.

McIntire said divers offshore first reported a quarter-mile-wide slick of dead fish Saturday while exploring a sunken wreck.

Robert J. Chant, an assistant professor of oceanography at the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, said researchers have long known of a deep cold-water zone, or "pool," in deep water off the mid-Atlantic coast. Summer temperatures in the pool, driven down by colder currents from the north, may fall into the 30s during summer and rise into the low 50s in winter.

"I would expect out in 90 feet of water, you'd find pretty cold water now," Chant said. "We had a cold winter and not a particularly hot summer."

Chant said he could not confirm any unusual upwelling of colder water. Other researchers have reported that surface temperature variations and hurricanes can trigger sudden mixing or turnover of warm and cold water zones.

Long Neck resident Edward Watcheski said he hoped regulators would take quick action to protect the croaker and limit fishing if the kill reaches crippling levels. Current fishery rules ban the taking of croaker smaller than 8 inches.

"I bring my grandchildren down here all summer and croaker is the icing on the cake," he said. "We catch them all summer and have a big party. If they're not there to catch, we're not going to be too happy."

Atlantic Croaker
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Some Additional Info,From The Maryland Beaches.

Maryland Department of the Environment Press release:


STATE AGENCIES, CITY MONITOR FISH KILL OFF MARYLAND COAST


OCEAN CITY, MD (August 3, 2004) --Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias is working with the Maryland Departments of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate a fish kill off the Maryland coast that began this past weekend.
Atlantic croaker have been found dead in large numbers off the coast of Maryland and Virginia at distances between 5 and 14 miles along Maryland's shores in Worcester County from the Assateague Island National Seashore and neighboring areas north into southern Delaware.
The kill is restricted to Atlantic croaker, which apparently died en masse as a result of a wedge or eddy of cold water created by currents off the coast. Sudden temperature changes can create a thermal shock that is lethal to croakers. There is no indication that algal blooms, low oxygen, or toxins are responsible for the kill.
Waters have been particularly clear in the vicinity of the mortality, no algae blooms have been reported, and species of fish more tolerant of cold water temperatures, such as black sea bass and tautog, are caught alive and well alongside the croakers that had succumbed.
Ocean City officials are collecting fish from the city's beaches. In the event that dead fish are washed ashore in much larger numbers, a beach advisory or closure may become necessary.
The Worcester County Health Department advises persons to use common sense if they discover dead fish. If numerous dead fish are found in swimming areas or on the beach, bathers should leave the water and bathe at the first opportunity, flushing eyes, mouth and nose. Do not handle dead fish unless necessary, and if necessary, gloves should be worn. Skin that is exposed to decayed fish should be thoroughly washed and flushed. Persons involved in cleanup operations should wash clothing following disposal of the fish. Under no circumstances should dead or dying fish be eaten.
 

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steve good info it would be disapointing if there was such a kill that reduced them to nothing then we wouldnt have wekaies and craokers and flounder we would be doomed
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Threat of dead fish on beaches ebbs
Offshore breeze, hurricane help


By JEFF MONTGOMERY
Staff reporter/Del.Online
08/05/2004


The threat of a massive landing of dead fish on Delaware and Maryland resort beaches eased Wednesday, driven away by light offshore breezes and a steady seaward turn by Hurricane Alex.

Officials in Delaware and Maryland had worried since Monday that the wrong combination of wind and waves could toss a million or more dead adult croakers onto the region's Atlantic coast playground at the height of summer. Only a few thousand of the 12- to 17-inch fish had come ashore by late Wednesday, however, and aerial surveys noted a continuing dispersal of a slick once estimated at a quarter mile wide and eight miles long.

"It's slowing down. Apparently the wind has moved out of the west, which is a break for us," said Roy W. Miller, fisheries section administrator for Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. "Unless the wind shifts, it's unlikely that this is going to continue."

Tests for bacteria and algae found beaches to be free of health risks, even in isolated tidal pools where dead fish and bacteria can sometimes collect.

Researchers were unsure of the cause, but some speculated that the fish died suddenly last week after a sudden landward rush of deep, frigid ocean waters off the Atlantic coast of Maryland and Virginia. Scientists still are learning about the wind-related "upwelling" phenomenon, which can send a layer of 40-degree water surging over fish even as they swim in 60-degree currents, trapping and killing them.

"There's a strong suspicion and precedent for this type of thing," said Tom Grothues, assistant research professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. "It so happens that we experienced upwelling here very recently, and when it happens in one place, it usually happens in others along the coast."

In Fenwick Island, lifelong summer visitor Kathy Adkins said she noticed "a little" odor from the decaying fish in recent days.

"They didn't seem as bad today," Adkins said. "I've seen some, not as many as on Monday."

Atlantic croaker - named for a characteristic sound they make during spawning or distress - rank among the most frequently caught recreational fish along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Some Maryland officials speculated the losses could run into the millions. Delaware environmental managers said estimates vary.

"The estimate was really seat of the pants," Miller said, who called the summertime croaker kill unusual. He pointed out that numbers used in recent days were based on calculations from reports, rather than actual observations.
 

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i am no expert but i have my doubts about cold water kill. my guess is red tide or something of that nature.

saying it was a red tide would kill the tourists

the beav
 

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Aliens caused it! I know this for a fact. I saw a shooting star on the same night over Del.
 
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