OCEAN CITY, MD (August 3, 2004) --Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias is working with the Maryland Departments of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate a fish kill off the Maryland coast that began this past weekend.
Atlantic croaker have been found dead in large numbers off the coast of Maryland and Virginia at distances between 5 and 14 miles along Maryland's shores in Worcester County from the Assateague Island National Seashore and neighboring areas north into southern Delaware.
The kill is restricted to Atlantic croaker, which apparently died en masse as a result of a wedge or eddy of cold water created by currents off the coast. Sudden temperature changes can create a thermal shock that is lethal to croakers. There is no indication that algal blooms, low oxygen, or toxins are responsible for the kill.
Waters have been particularly clear in the vicinity of the mortality, no algae blooms have been reported, and species of fish more tolerant of cold water temperatures, such as black sea bass and tautog, are caught alive and well alongside the croakers that had succumbed.
Ocean City officials are collecting fish from the city's beaches. In the event that dead fish are washed ashore in much larger numbers, a beach advisory or closure may become necessary.
The Worcester County Health Department advises persons to use common sense if they discover dead fish. If numerous dead fish are found in swimming areas or on the beach, bathers should leave the water and bathe at the first opportunity, flushing eyes, mouth and nose. Do not handle dead fish unless necessary, and if necessary, gloves should be worn. Skin that is exposed to decayed fish should be thoroughly washed and flushed. Persons involved in cleanup operations should wash clothing following disposal of the fish. Under no circumstances should dead or dying fish be eaten.