Millions of Fish Die in SoCal Marina

Can you imagine if this happened at South Beach on Opening Day?

By Jonathan Lloyd and Olsen Ebright
|  Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011  |  Updated 4:59 PM PDT
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An aerial view shows the scope of the die-off in King Harbor.

An aerial view shows the scope of the die-off in King Harbor.

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Reports from scientists appear to confirm early suspicions that millions of fish died in a Southern California marina due to a lack of oxygen in the water.

People who live in or near the Redondo Beach marina woke up Tuesday to a smelly mess.  What looked like an oil sheen from helicopter video was actually millions of dead sardines. The water was so thick with the sardines that some vessels could not move.

Citing USC biologists, city officials say tests on the water showed no signs of "pollution or toxins as the cause of the die off."

Biologists say "the water in the harbor experienced oxygen depravation."

Or as Redondo Beach police Sgt. Phil Keenan put it earlier in the day, "It's like putting too many fish in a small aquarium."

The dead fish -- which some estimated to total as many as one billion -- will be taken to a composting facility for organic re-use, according to the city.

Sardines move in gigantic schools, sometimes called "bait balls,'' and Monday's high winds, as some experts speculated, may have driven them into the harbor.

Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan said officials believe the fish "got lost" in rough seas and made a wrong turn at the breakwater, ending up in the harbor, where they used up all the available oxygen.

Public works crews spent Tuesday hauling away the fish away in large buckets. The clean-up efforts will take five to seven days and cost about $100,000, said Redondo Beach mayor Mike Gin.

Sea birds and harbor seals flocked to the area to feast on the fish.


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