Georgetown County, SC – Tens of thousands of dead fish washed ashore in South Carolina Tuesday, marking the second such occurrence in the region in a week.
Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 menhaden fish, 6 to 8 inches long, washed up dead on DeBordieu Beach in Georgetown County, with thousands more expected, reports NBC News.
Late last week, hundreds of thousands of the same type of fish were washed ashore near Masonboro Island, NC. Last year saw thousands of dead starfish wash up on the same beaches.
“We came down to the beach for the day just to have, you know, a nice day on the beach, smell the fish smell, came down to look for shells and all these fish — dead,” resident Pat Hawkins told local NBC affiliate WMBF. “It’s a shame. I don’t know what’s causing it.”
Officials from the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Natural Resources took water samples to determine what killed the fish, and stressed that such a thing has a very natural explanation. The fish were reportedly killed by hypoxia, which happens when the amount of oxygen in the water drops dramatically.
“On Friday we had a new moon (which caused) real high high tides and real low low tides,” Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, told The Sun News.
“Probably what happened was a school (of menhaden) got in an area of water on a high tide, in a hole or depression, and at low tide they were trapped and depleted the oxygen in the water. Then, all the fish would suffocate. Then, when the tide came back in, it washed the dead fish out and they washed up on the beach.”
Pawleys Island Police Chief Michael Fanning concurred, saying:
“We’re just dealing with it as a force of nature. There are some residual fish, most of it has gotten washed away, there were a ton of birds down there. If you went down there (Thursday), you’d get more birds than fish.”
Here’s a video report about the dead fish: