Mother Nature cleans up fish carcasses in Marina del Rey harbor

After thousands of dead fish floated to the surface inside a dock at a Marina del Rey harbor, authorities are leaving it to Mother Nature to pick up the mess.

"The birds are here, cleaning them up en masse," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Brett McCann of the harbor master's office. "If you come out now, you'll see hundreds of birds diving in."


KTLA video on Monday showed sea lions and pelicans feasting on the fish.

Heaps of sardines and anchovies washed up overnight Saturday, forming a carpet of carcasses among docks and boats in Basin A of the harbor, near Bora Bora Way.

Harbor officials estimated 50,000 to 70,000 fish floated to the surface, CBS Los Angeles reported. The head of a school of fish likely led the sea life into the harbor, where it dead ends, causing the group to suffocate, the station reported.

"There were thousands of anchovies blanketing the surface," said Michael Quill, community programs manager for an environmental group, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, which was preparing to take a group of high school students on a boat trip Sunday morning when he encountered the spectacle. "It was just a sheet of silver."

By the time Quill returned to the marina a few hours later, a work crew had scooped many of the fish carcasses from the area where they had washed up, "but it was still pretty impressive and pretty smelly."

Reports of the dead fish started coming in about 11 p.m. Saturday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's officials called the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors to the scene to clear the fish from the water and notified the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to a deputy at the Marina del Rey Station.

The incident is minor compared with the massive fish die-off in King Harbor in Redondo Beach three years ago, sheriff's officials said.

The March 2011 fish kill was blamed on millions of small fish that swam into the marina en masse, used up all the available oxygen, suffocated and died.