Thousands of dead fish washed ashore a beach in the Gulf Coast beach in Texas last week, Fox News reported. The Menhaden fish were found dead at the far end of Bryan Beach, the outlet said, quoting local officials. When asked about the reason for the death of so many fish, the officials said warm water, which can’t hold as much oxygen as cooler water, is to be blamed. When water rises above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes hard for the Menhaden to receive enough oxygen to survive, Quintana Beach County Park said on Facebook.
Dense schools of menhaden are found from Canada to South America. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, they swim with mouths agape and gill openings widespread to strain out plankton.
“Shallow waters warm more quickly than deeper, so if a school of menhaden are trapped in the shallows as the water begins to heat, the fish will start to suffer from hypoxia,” officials further said in the Facebook post.
The lack of oxygen causes the fish to panic and act erratically, which depletes oxygen levels even further, officials said.
Speaking to New York Times (NYT), Katie Saint Clair, the sea life facility manager at Texas A&M University at Galveston, drew attention towards waters getting warm due to climate change.
“As we see increased water temperatures, certainly this could lead to more of these events occurring, especially in our shallow, near-shore or inshore environments,” she said.
The dead fish were first spotted on Friday, when, according to the National Weather Service, the temperature was 92 degrees Fahrenheit in the Brazoria County.
Bryan Frazier, the director of Brazoria County Parks Department, told NYT that such fish kills are “not that uncommon” in the area and start to occur when the water warms during the summer.