The Yellowstone River in Montana is suffering from a massive fish die-off, and experts believe that the actual number of dead whitefish could be much higher than they originally believed. Just yesterday, it was reported that roughly 1,000 whitefish had inexplicably died in the Yellowstone river, but now a spokesperson for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department believes actual number of fish impacted by the die-off could be ten times that, maybe even more.
As The Washington Times reports, the whitefish is a species native to the Yellowstone River; the fish die-off could have a profound impact on the native ecosystem, particularly considering officials have yet to figure out why the fish are dying.
The area impacted by the current Yellowstone River fish die-off is quite vast, with dead mountain whitefish having been found on both banks of the river.
Scientists and researchers working independently and with the State of Montana are working tirelessly to figure out what is killing the fish in the Yellowstone River. Reportedly, both samples of the dead whitefish and water samples from the Yellowstone River have been sent away for testing. The tests will be conducted at the Montana Department of Water Quality; samples have also been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center in Bozeman, Montana.
The current Yellowstone River fish die-off was discovered by fisherman last Friday in the Paradise Valley region of the river.
I JUST READ ARTICLE ABOUT A BUNCH OF FISH FOUND DEAD IN YELLOWSTONE AND NOW I'M PARANOID THAT YELLOWSTONE IS GOING TO ERUPT.— Rainn with two n's (@JustPlainRainn) August 15, 2016
While the official cause of the current Yellowstone River fish die-off remains unknown, officials have at least one working theory as to what is killing the mountain whitefish. Namely, officials dealing with the die-off believe that that the Yellowstone River could be infested with deadly parasites.
As KTVQ reports, this isn’t the first time a whitefish die-off has been reported in the Northwest. Just a couple of years ago, Idaho’s Snake River dealt with a similar fish die-off, and it was officially determined that the cause of that event was a parasite.
In addition to whitefish, the Yellowstone River is also losing a few suckers, but (thankfully) trout have not yet been impacted by the kill, a kill which experts are monitoring closely to determine whether or not it could be spreading.
In other Yellowstone River news, it was recently reported that an oil pipeline break was discovered under the Yellowstone River over the weekend. As Mary Greely News reports, while disturbing, officials don’t believe the potentially-disastrous oil pipeline leak under the river is related to the Yellowstone River fish die-off.
Despite not being believed to be related to the ever-growing fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, the pipeline break under the Yellowstone river has reportedly prompted a massive cleanup effort along the Yellowstone River. The oil is reportedly being removed from the water using a traditional boom assisted by a secondary second point because of the river’s swift water.
“We believe the breach is under the riverbed about 50 feet from the south shoreline. We are recovering product on the south side, but I don’t know how much. There’s a limited amount of places where the cleanup can be done.”
Massive Oil Spill in Yellowstone River Contaminates Drinking Water — NOVA Next | PBS https://t.co/0wOKApvoaE— peter neu (@neupete) August 16, 2016
A disaster area has been declared in two counties, Dawson and Richland, following the oil spill in the Yellowstone River, and the costs of cleaning up the Yellowstone River oil spill are reportedly going to be covered by Bridger Pipeline.
Fish are dying at Yellowstone by the hundreds. https://t.co/XGXKbtm6oZ— Momspennies (@momspennies) August 16, 2016
An oil sheen has reportedly been visible on the Yellowstone River as far east as Williston, North Dakota.
Despite the disturbing news that the Yellowstone River is currently being impacted by an oil spill related to an underground oil pipeline, officials have repeatedly assured the public that they don’t believe the oil spill is related to the Yellowstone River fish die-off. The masses of dead mountain whitefish were discovered before the oil spill was discovered, and occurred in a different area of the river upstream from the oil spill.
While authorities continue to investigate the ongoing Yellowstone River fish deaths, they are asking for the public’s help. Anyone who finds dead suckers or mountain whitefish in or along the Yellowstone River is being asked to report it to the regional FWP so that a connection to the widespread die-off can be determined if one exists.
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