Thousands of fish wash up on Aptos beaches Friday
APTOS, Calif. —A fishy situation happened at Manresa State Beach in La Selva Beach Friday morning.
Thousands of dead gray and white fish were found on sand stretching from Manresa to Seascape Beach in Aptos.
“First we saw one, and we (walked) another 50 feet, and there was a blanket of dead fish,” said Matt Lahr, who was visiting from New Hampshire.
It was not immediately clear what type of fish they were, nor why they died en masse. Monterey Bay-based Marine Biologist Giancarlo Thomae said he believes the fish died from asphyxia after too many schools swam close to shore.
“When too many are packed inshore they deplete the oxygen. That is why the Santa Cruz harbor aerates the upper harbor,” Thomae said.
Thomae paddled out from Moss Landing in a kayak Friday and said he could see massive schools of anchovies swimming beneath the kayak and whales feeding on the fish.
Christi Clark was watching the ocean from Seacliff State Beach, two beaches north from Seascape Beach, Thursday afternoon. Clark said fishermen who dropped lines from the cement ship pier were catching the same type of fish that were found dead.
“Fishermen on the pier near the cement ship were catching these fish really quickly. They’d put a line down with four hooks, set it in the water, and 30 seconds later they’d have fish on all 4 hooks. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Clark said.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research fishery biologist pitched a second theory to KSBW, stating that the fish could have actually been trapped in squid boat nets, suffocated, and dumped by the boat’s crew.
Rules enforced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife make it illegal for commercial fishermen to keep any fish caught in squid nets.
In the spring, market squid enter the Monterey Bay in huge numbers to spawn. A plentiful squid season began in April, and will end when a 118,000-ton quota is caught in California.
Fish and Wildlife warden Don Kelly agreed with Field’s theory.
“Their mouths agape indicate they were trying to get oxygen. Secondly, we found there were quite a few sand dollars, which are indicative of being scooped up while they’re fresh on the bottom. These nets are very deep and when they drop them they will disturb the bottom,” Kelly said.