Biologist: Thousands of Dead Fish Not Hazardous

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CLEVELAND -- There's something a little "eerie" going on along the shores of Lake Erie these days.  Thousands of dead fish are piling up on the shoreline.

It was a surprising sight for Alyse Ma of Euclid and her family who were at the East 55th Street Marina Wednesday.

"They're disgusting looking and it doesn't smell good down here,” Ma said.

Kevin Kayle, a fish biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the fish are gizzard shads and this winter kill is a natural occurrence this time of year.

"We see die offs of both small and moderate size gizzard shads all along the Lake Erie shoreline during a hard winter,” Kayle said.

Kayle said the fish kill has nothing to do with pollution or disease.  It’s just that this type of fish cannot take the stress of a long, cold winter.

“The fish cannot regulate their bodies during these cold water temperatures for prolonged periods of time,” he added.

There is also no health hazard to people as long as the fish are left alone.

“There are bacteria associated with the fish as they start to decompose,” Kayle said.   But, that bacteria is also part of nature’s circle of life by adding nutrients to Lake Erie and as part of the food chain.

“I figure that the birds will eat them all soon.  And it will be all cleaned up by summer,” Ma said.

This fish kill is likely to be coming to an end as spring finally arrives and the water temperature on Lake Erie warms up.

A similar fish kill is likely to happen again in late fall when the lake's water temperature changes again.

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