Thousands of dead fish in North Inlet

  • Friday, June 27, 2014

A combination of early morning low tides and high temperatures have left more than 1 million fish – primarily menhaden and red drum – floating in the north channel near Debordieu. And while the size of the kill for this area may be unusual, the causes of the event are not.

“The warm temperatures and stable water, and our preliminary samples, are consistent with low dissolved oxygen,” said Phil Maier, director, Coastal Reserves and Outreach of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in Charleston.

He said that it could be a couple of days before full test results are known from the samples collected by the DNR and the state’s colleges.

The kill was discovered Thursday by one of the fishing boat captains and a picture of the fish was posted on the Seven Seas Seafood website Friday.

“Because this is an estuary with small tidal creeks, if the conditions are right, it’s not uncommon for the fish to become trapped in the inlets. If they don’t get enough oxygen from the water, they die,” said Maier.

He added that just as the kills in a natural occurrence, so too is the response. “Nature will take care of this. Bigger animals will eat the fish,” Maier said.

He said that in some parts of the country, particularly on the Gulf Coast, it is not usual for residents to actually collect dead fish and eat them.

A July 2013 fish kill in Harrison County, Mississippi, drew hundreds of residents to beaches to take advantage of shrimp, crab, flounder and other fish that also were victims of depleted oxygen in the water.

Maier said that while the north channel event seems to have run its course for now, it would not be unusual for another fish kill. “The conditions have not changed,” he said.

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