UPDATE: Unusual Fish Kill Found in Annapolis
Fish on the shores of Bay Ridge and Sandy Point State Park died of natural causes due to "cold stress" because of the low temperature of the water in the Chesapeake Bay.
Some Bay Ridge residents were taking a peaceful walk along the community beach when they stumbled upon a disturbing site — a large fish kill. Similar sights were reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), who oversees the investigation of fish kills throughout the state, on Dec. 29 in Calvert County near Calvert Cliffs.
According to Chris Luckett of the MDE, additional fish kills were reported along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, including in Bay Ridge and along the beach at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. The good news is that the fish apparently died of natural causes from "cold stress" and not from disease or pollution, as some people feared.
"There are tens of thousands, perhaps more," said Luckett, when describing the number of dead fish that have been identified as spot.
When the water temperature begins to decrease in the fall, spot move to deeper waters or the ocean. Luckett said it's not the first time a large fish kill has happened and cited an incident in 1978 where about 15 million of the same species died.
"The fish species we are seeing dead are supposed to leave the upper bay by now and water temperatures are nearly as cold as they've ever been for late December (about 2 degrees Celsius)," according to Dawn Stoltzfus, MDE director of communications. "The drop in water temperatures has been quite quick this month."
Luckett added that the fish simply don't have the metabolisms to deal with the colder temperatures and their death is a natural occurrence.
When asked what the cleanup process would be for the dead fish on the beach in Bay Ridge, Luckett stated that "mother nature" would take care of it.
Although the MDE is aware of the situation in Bay Ridge and at Sandy Point so it does not need to be reported again, residents should report future incidents of fish kill immediately by calling 877-224-7229. Staff is always on call 24 hours a day (including weekends and holidays) to ensure reports are addressed.
Probable causes of fish kill can be natural (including disease, low dissolved oxygen, thermal, shock, seasonal/spawning stress and stranding) or from pollution. There were 13 fish kill incidents reported in Anne Arundel County during 2009, which was more than any other county.
For more information, visit the MDE's website.
Updated — The MDE released a statement on Jan. 5 estimating that 2 million fish in the Chesapeake Bay have died and the investigation into the fish kill continues. Although Patch was told that about 15 million spot died in a similar incident in 1978, the release stated that MDE records show the incident occurred in late January 1976 and a smaller number died in January 1980. The fish kill is reportedly "centered on the bay from Bay Bridge to Poplar Island." To read the complete release, see the MDE's website.
On Jan. 6, Patch received reports and photos of dead fish washed up on shores in Kent Island along with sightings of seagulls and other birds out on the water.