Thousands of dead fish line Lake Ontario shores

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WROC) — If you’ve been to Lake Ontario recently, you might have noticed thousands of little dead fish all along the shoreline. From an environmental perspective, many are asking whether it’s the result of a larger scale issue, like climate change, or a more localized issue like pollution.

“It’s a mass killing, so the question is, ‘What killed them?’ Is it like an algae bloom?” said Nick Hessong, who expressed concern about fish and the quality of the water.

Others think it’s no big deal, like Greg McHugh, who is visiting from Jamaica. “We’re used to seeing the skeletons of the fish on the beach and sand,” McHugh said.

Christopher Legard with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says these fish are probably alewives or round goby, non-native fish at their northernmost point. “In the springtime, these kinds of fish die off. So we see these every year,” Legard said.

Dead fish scattered along Durand Eastman Beach

The official position at the DEC is that seeing thousands of dead fish on the shoreline is actually normal. They say not to worry about a human cause for the die-off. During this time of year, cold winds shift the water temperatures around, which shocks the fishes’ systems. 

“That’s what causes the springtime die-offs,” says Legard. “As things get warmed up, the die-offs usually taper off.” He added: “When we get into the swimming season, they’re typically not so many of these happening. These springtime die-offs are generally not connected to any type of pollution or fish disease.”

He says there should not be any reason for concern. According to Legard, the fish and fishing are great in Lake Ontario, and he encourages all to get out there on the water.

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