Fish die-off in Michigan – 06/08/2007

  • December 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm #1692

    Luna Pier residents plagued with thousands of fish, foul odors
    By: by Dean Cousino story updated June 08. 2007 11:25AM

    Thousands of dead fish wash ashore earlier this week in Luna Pier.

    A shift in the wind may have saved City of Luna Pier residents from further headaches after thousands of foul-smelling dead fish washed ashore.

    For more than a week, city crews have been hauling away loads of mostly sheepshead, carp and white bass from the city’s public beach near the Clyde R. Evans Walking Pier. Then the wind shifted from the northeast to the south Thursday and local authorities say that might mean an end to the messy pileup and noxious odors.

    “My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” City Administrator Tom Treece said Thursday. “I feel bad for the lakefront owners. I live on the north end and (the odor) is really bad.”

    Randy Whipple, superintendent of the city’s department of public works, said it’s the worst fish kill he’s seen in 29 years with the city.

    “I’ve never seen it this bad,” Mr. Whipple said Thursday. “You peek over the seawall and it’s solid white with fish. It’s just so overwhelming.”

    His crews have been hauling at least an end loader bucket a day from the public beach. On Monday, the crews scooped up about 2,000 fish from a 10-foot-wide pile on the beach. But the northeast winds kept blowing more fish ashore after they made a sweep.

    “It’s hard to keep up,” the superintendent said. “We’d go out every morning and fill a bucket load… I just don’t have the manpower to keep going back.”

    Local and state officials aren’t sure yet what’s causing the fish to die.

    Larry DeSloover, a technician with the commercial fisheries’ division of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), visited the site last week. He, too, isn’t sure what’s causing the problem after visiting the beach three times this year.

    “I’ve seen them on the beach, but I can’t tell you,” Mr. DeSloover said by telephone Thursday while in his car returning to Lansing. “We’ve gotten six complaints in the past month from Luna Pier people and I know they’re not happy about it … it’s gotten a little out of hand.”

    He said some officials suspect a virus that has affected commercial fishing may be the culprit, but there is no proof yet to that theory. The virus has been found in 32 different species of fish in the Great Lakes. Biologists from the DNR’s fisheries division are expected to visit the city’s shoreline the week of June 18 to conduct tests. That’s the soonest they can get to the city because of other investigations they are doing, he said.

    He noted that the only complaints they have received about large fish kills have come from Luna Pier. A report of the complaints was forwarded to his supervisor, who will study them and get back to Mr. DeSloover.

    There are three commercial fishing vessels that operate in the area and sail out of Luna Pier and Lost Peninsula in Erie Township, he said. One of the vessels catches fish with seines in shallow water of the lake while the other two use trap nets in deep water. They catch a variety of fish, including carp, catfish, sheepshead and white fish. They are not allowed to keep walleye pickerel or perch and must throw them back into the lake. He spoke with operators of the vessels and they reported no unusual occurrences with the fish.

    Mr. Whipple said his crews buried most of the fish in a five-foot-deep hole by the garage off S. Harold Dr.

    “That’s the only way to get rid of them” and the odors, he said.

    Usually, residents have to put up with swarms of mayflies from the lake, but this year is different. Only a few bugs had been spotted as of Thursday, Mr. Whipple said.

    Mr. Treece said the city has three miles of shoreline that must be protected from any health hazards and foul odors from the fish kill. Last year, piles of muck from the dredging of the Toledo harbor washed ashore and also caused a stink.

    “I’m no expert on what’s causing (the fish kill). We’re just trying to take care of our beach and help our people when they have complaints,” he said.

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