Thousands of fish have died due to excessive heat in the Midwest, clogging river dams and drains, and scientists say the situation is unlike any they have seen before.
The thousands of dead fish are, experts say, more vulnerable to threats such as infection when heat is high and water levels are low, and one batch of dead fish were discovered to have bacterial lesions. In Iowa, more than 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were discovered dead in an area where temps hovered near three digits.
Wildlife experts in Nebraska are reporting large fish kills in the Lower Platte River, including some endangered sturgeon. And in Illinois, tens of thousands of fish have turned up dead — in levels enough to interfere with the operation of a local power plant, forcing it to power off a generator.
Scientists have blamed record heat levels seen this summer for the unusual numbers of dead fish, and Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told Yahoo:
“It’s something I’ve never seen in my career, and I’ve been here for more than 17 years… I think what we’re mainly dealing with here are the extremely low flows and this unparalleled heat.”
Flammang explains that even in a longer-range period of time, the thousands of dead fish observed in the area this summer constitute an unusual and notable environmental event:
“Those fish have been in these rivers for thousands of thousands of years, and they’re accustomed to all sorts of weather conditions,” he said. “But sometimes, you have conditions occur that are outside their realm of tolerance.”
Dan Stephenson, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, agreed and explained:
“We’re talking hundreds of thousands (killed), maybe millions by now… If you’re only talking about game fish, it’s probably in the thousands. But for all fish, it’s probably in the millions if you look statewide… This year has been really, really bad — disproportionately bad, compared to our other years.”
While thousands of dead fish have turned up in several areas, experts say collectively, it is likely millions of fish have died this summer due to the extreme weather.