'Very large' fish kill reported in bay

Cold believed cause for 2 million dead spot, croakers

January 05, 2011|By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

State officials say they are investigating a "very large" fish kill in the Chesapeake Bay, but suspect cold temperatures killed them, rather than any water-quality problems.

An estimated 2 million fish have been reported dead from the Bay Bridge south to Tangier Sound, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment, which investigates fish kills. The dead fish are primarily adult spot, with some juvenile croakers.

Agency spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said bay water quality appears acceptable, and biologists believe "cold-water stress" the likely cause of the fish kill. Spot are susceptible to colder water, she said, and normally leave the upper bay by now. Water temperatures plummeted in late December to near-record lows for that time of year, about 36 degrees. The average air temperature last month was 32.4 degrees, 4.3 degrees below normal, and reached 16 degrees at its lowest, according to the National Weather Service.

Large winter kills of spot have been documented at least twice before, the MDE spokeswoman said, with about 15 million dying in early 1976 and a smaller number in 1980. Anyone wanting to report seeing dead fish can call 1-866-MDE-GOTO.

An earlier version had an incorrect number to report a fish kill. The Sun regrets the error.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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