Biologists Find Powerful Neurotoxin in Dead Sardines

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Biologists say the millions of dead fish that washed up in King Harbor in Redondo Beach tested positive for a dangerous neurotoxin.

The California Department of Fish and Game had originally blamed the die-off on oxygen deprivation, after the fish were driven into the marina by rough waters.

High traces of domoic acid were found by an independent team of biologists at the University of Southern California, who took their own samples.

The powerful neurotoxin is what caused the sardines to swim chaotically into the marina, the USC biologists say.

They still believe critically low oxygen levels, not the toxin or an algae bloom, was the main cause of death.

Results from analyses being performed by the Department of Fish and Game will be available this week.

Meantime, public works crews and volunteers are continuing their work cleaning up the marina.

Millions of dead fish, mostly sardines along with anchovies and mackerel, floated up to the surface from the ocean floor on Wednesday.

Officials said there was layer of fish about 12 to 18 inches thick covering the bottom of the marina.

Marine experts have warned that time is of the essence, because if the fish decompose, oxygen levels will go down even more in the marina, killing other sea life.

The decay could also boost nutrients in the harbor, leading to an algae bloom that would further deplete oxygen levels.

Heal the Bay said they are analyzing ocean conditions along with the Redondo Beach SEA Laboratory and the University of Southern California.

"It's critical that all the dead fish are removed within the next couple of days to prevent an even worse problem," the organization said in a statement.

Firefighters were using hoses at the bottom of the harbor to try to stir the fish up for a diver to capture.

A sewer vacuum truck was also being used to suck the dead fish from the water with a long plastic hose.

"Now that you have millions and just tons of dead fish, it's going to become a hazmat situation," Sgt. Phil Keenan of the Redondo Beach Police Department told KTLA.

It's expected that the clean-up will cost at least $100,000.

The dead fish are being taken to a facility near Victorville to be converted into organic compost.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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