Scientists Puzzled By 20,000 Dead Fish And Sea Animals Off Nova Scotia Coast

Experts are baffled by a recent discovery off the coast of Nova Scotia, as thousands of dead fish and other sea creatures were found earlier in the week at Savory Park.

According to a report from CNN, Canadian officials estimated as many as 20,000 sea animals – including fish, lobsters, crabs, scallops, starfish, and others – washed up on Nova Scotia’s western coast. But at this point, authorities still aren’t sure as to what caused the mass die-off. Officials are currently testing for pesticide content and checking water oxygen levels in hopes of getting to the bottom of the situation. Consumers are strongly advised to restrict their seafood purchases to those from authorized vendors.

“Dead fish found on shore should not be collected by general public. Consumers should only purchase from licensed harvesters/sellers.”

The United States Geological Survey notes that there are several things that could result in massive die-offs of aquatic life. These may include exposure to harmful chemicals, but the majority of fish kills have been blamed on a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.

This is not the first time in 2016 that scores of dead fish have been found washed up by authorities. Earlier this year, similar events were reported in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon and China’s Hongcheng Lake. The Florida event had affected miles of the Atlantic coast, with the fish deaths blamed on several factors, including warmer waters, higher rates of precipitation, and pollutant runoff. All this resulted in a greater concentration of algae blooms and brown tide, both of which in turn affected oxygen levels and killed thousands of fish.

WFLA also reported in September on fish kills in the Sarasota County area, which were supposedly caused by seasonal red tide blooms. A sewage spill in Pinellas County was also blamed for aggravating the Sarasota County event, as sewage “could contribute to the growth of red tide,” but in any case, this caused great concern among state authorities, as well as beachgoers who were turned off by the large amounts of dead fish in the area.

CNN stated that the Chinese event, which took place in Haikou, China in May, had seen about 35 tons of dead fish spotted off the coast of Hongcheng Lake. Salt levels were pinpointed as the primary cause of the event, though Haikou residents had first cited pollution as a possible factor.

While it has been established that fish die-offs could be caused by numerous factors, the Nova Scotia event has been puzzling experts and authorities so far. In an interview with CTV News, Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine ecologist Kent Smedbol discussed some of the possible causes behind the event, though he stated that tests for bacteria and diseases have come back negative so far. Disease may still be a factor, as authorities have yet to run some viral tests on the dead fish.

Salt levels could drop as a result of storms, which cause freshwater runoff that could drop salinity levels close to the shore, said Smedbol. There haven’t been any “anomalous” weather patterns in the area, but there’s a slim possibility weather had played a part.

Smedbol added that man-made factors may possibly be behind it all, as “some sort of human-made pollutant or agricultural runoff” has been suspected. But with a lack of surrounding farms or people in the area, he acknowledged the chances of a man-made event are likewise slim.

In all, Smedbol told CTV News that the death of the fish may have been a “one-off event” of yet unknown cause, as St. Mary’s Bay in Nova Scotia “empties and refills once a day.”

[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]