- Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment: Deaths believed to be the result of ‘lake inversion’ that naturally depletes oxygen levels in the water
PUBLISHED: 19:59 EST, 7 September 2012 | UPDATED: 20:07 EST, 7 September 2012
Tens of thousands of fish that washed up on Lake Erie’s shore last week horrifying local residents and tourists died of natural causes, early test results have revealed.
With their rotting bodies seen thickly lining 25 miles of the water’s edge as well as bobbing at the shared Canadian and U.S. lake’s surface, residents had vowed to stay far from the water then feared to be polluted.
‘Samples back from the lab do not show any evidence of a manure spills or anything unusual in terms of contamination,’ Ontario Ministry of the Environment spokesperson Kate Jordan told the Star on Friday.
‘The information that we have suggests the fish may have been killed as the result of natural causes,’ she said, explaining it as heavy sediment depleting the water’s oxygen.
‘It was rank, so profoundly rank, that it was difficult to stay down there and the next morning we woke up to the smell,’ Neville Knowles told the Chatham Daily News of her experience prior to the fish’s death on Monday. It’s what led her and many others to believe the water was contaminated.
‘There was a really strong odour, not a fishy smell, almost a manure smell, and we waded to our chest and I said to the kids we’re got to get out of here, there is something wrong with the water,’ Frank Van den Boorn told the Daily News of his visit to the lake over the weekend.
According to Ms Jordan, however, the smell described by Ms Knowles and Mr Van den Boorn matches that of a natural phenomenon called ‘lake inversion.’
She explained it as when a change in wind kicks up sediment reducing the levels of oxygen in the water, potentially killing the fish as witnesses saw, in the thousands.
According to Ms Jordan the wind did change last week and lake inversion has happened at Lake Eerie in the past.
Officials are still awaiting more intensive lab analysis results on the dead fish found at Lake Erie, which included carp, sheepshead, perch, catfish and suckers.
Adding to the mystery, however, was the mutual sight of dead seagulls who had been seen feasting on the fish before their death.
It is not yet clear whether the birds died as a result of eating the dead fish, or whether there was some other cause.
At this time, Canadian officials have not issued any health warnings, but as new information is discovered this could change.
Earlier this month, thousands of dead fish washed ashore along the Texas coast from the Colorado River to Galveston Island, Kens5 reported. Biologists suspected low oxygen levels caused the deaths.
Last year thousands of dead birds were seen falling from the sky in Arkansas, and hundreds were discovered along a road in California.
Dead birds were also reported in Italy and Sweden, and huge quantity of dead fish were found in New Zealand and Brazil.