Officials investigate large SC fish kills

akelley@thesunnews.comJune 28, 2014 

— Hundreds of dead fish were found in North Inlet late Thursday and is the second time officials found a large fish kill this week.

Both incidents are likely due to low oxygen levels which poses no threat to water quality for humans.

Dean Cain, a marine biologist with S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said “upwards of a million fish” died in Winyah Bay around Muddy Bay sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday and is likely related to a low dissolved oxygen event. He said most of the fish were Menhaden, but there were also some Red Drum.

Cain on Friday was investigating a second report in North Inlet, which he said is about eight and a half miles away from the Winyah Bay event.

Seven Seas Seafood Market, in Murrells Inlet, posted pictures on Facebook late Thursday evening saying a boat captain went to North Inlet Thursday morning and found “a huge kill of Spot Tail and Menhaden.”

Cain said hypoxia (the absence of oxygen in the water) is the likely culprit for both fish kills, but said it doesn’t mean the events are related.

In January 2013, thousands of Menhaden fish washed ashore in Debordiue and Pawleys Island. Officials suspected low oxygen levels in the waters just offshore.

Phil Maier, with DNR, said it will take a couple days to confirm low oxygen levels is responsible, but said all conditions point that direction.

“An early morning low tide, warm temperatures, and real stable conditions point toward a low dissolved oxygen kill,” he said. “June through August is typically when we see these kinds of events.”

Water samples at both sites are being collected, as are measurements of the temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen.

Cain said the water samples will be tested to determine if there is any correlation with a phytoplankton or algae bloom which also can cause low oxygen levels.

Neither Winyah Bay nor North Inlet are closed and Cain said there is no reason to avoid either location. Cain said low dissolved oxygen does not impact water quality as it relates to humans.

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