Massive Fish Kill In Florida Blamed On Algae Superbloom And Fertilizers? Thousands Of Dead Fish Seen Floating For Miles In Indian River Lagoon

A massive fish kill is currently underway in Florida. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish can be seen “for miles” in Indian River Lagoon. While scientists are blaming factors like the super bloom of algae and fertilizer runoff, many environmentalists are blaming the phenomenon to persistent pollution and government apathy.

Thousands of dead fish have been observed lately in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. The event observed in the recent days is undoubtedly one of the most severe fish kills, say conservationists. Within a span of a few days, hundreds of thousands of dead fish, from the 30 odd species prevalent to the area, have died. Their carcasses can be observed from Titusville to Melbourne. The dead fish are emitting a strong stench that’s unbearable, but the sight is a lot more heartbreaking, said a fisherman.

“The heartbreaking images can be seen for miles. All up and down the coast, it’s the same story, and it could get worse before it gets better.”

It is a common consensus that the situation will get a lot worse before it improves because this is just the beginning of the warm season. Such a fish kill is usually observed during the warmest of the months, before it recedes, and hence it could be a few months before such a scene isn’t witnessed.

What’s causing the fish kill in Florida? There appears to be multiple theories that claim to explain why so many fish are dying and their carcasses crowding near the surface of the brackish, polluted water as far as the eye can see, but the three most notable ones doing the rounds are super bloom of algae that is sucking up all the oxygen, unpredictable weather pattern brought on by El Nino, and, of course, government apathy. Incidentally, it might be the culmination of all three in the month of January, that has been responsible for the large scale fish kill in Florida.

The month of January witnessed unusually high amount of rain. Many parts of central Florida received triple the amount of rain they normally do for the month, reported WGAL News 8. Though Florida is supposed to experience a “dry season” in January, the rains were responsible for partial deluge, which flowed through urbanized neighborhoods. All the water eventually made its way into the idyllic beaches, waterways and estuaries near the massive, biologically diverse ecosystem along central Florida’s Atlantic coast. Along with mud and sediment, the water picked up huge amounts of artificial or synthetic fertilizers and pollutants, which might have been responsible for the fish kill.

The other theory suggests the unusually warmer temperatures allowed a toxic algae bloom, most notable among them being Aureoumbra lagunensis, also known as “brown tide,” reported USA Today. The algae releases a rather slimy mucus, which “suffocates” aquatic life. Incidentally, some algae can kill fish by releasing toxins into the water. Additionally, the algae consumes oxygen. This simply means there’s a lot less oxygen available to breathe. Even a slight dip in the oxygen levels within the bodies of water can be devastating to the flora and fauna. Finally, the fish kill allows bacteria to thrive. These microscopic creatures feast on the rotting carcasses, which further hit the oxygen levels.

While these are natural causes, according to Huffington Post, it might be the blatant disregard displayed by the common public, and those holding office, to the fragile ecosystem, that’s primarily responsible for the fish kill in Florida.

Decades of rampant pollution caused by septic tanks, overuse of fertilizers, and unregulated storm water runoff has had a strong negative impact on the delicate underwater ecosystem, not just killing the small fish, but also larger animals like manatees, dolphins, and even birds like the pelican. Add rotting plant matter from the fields and the water is a death trap for aquatic life, insist environmentalists.

[Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images]