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Dead Anchovies Clog Oregon Coasts

Jul 30, 2014 05:11 PM EDT

Thousands of tiny silvery fish are washing up dead along the waterways of the north Oregon coast - namely around the coast town of Seaside. The hundreds-of-thousands of fish reportedly died trying to swim up the Necanicum River, coming in with the tide only to get stranded shore-side and die.

Tiffany Boothe, a representative from Seaside's Aquarium told local media that this kind of thing is not terribly unusual, although this specific mass death is larger than many seen in the past.

Boothe told the Oregon Coast Beach Connection that this morbid (and smelly) occurrence happens every few years around Seaside, as anchovy populations swell to unmanageable numbers. The Necanium River, too small to support such massive numbers, quickly becomes depleted of oxygen and the anchovies choke to death

"It may not seem like it, but this is a sign that the anchovies along our coastline are doing good," Boothe said. "It also provides a lot of food for birds and marine mammals."

Experts speculate that this anchovy influx occasionally occurs when a large cold-water upwelling from the deeper ocean brings up more nutrients, attracting bait fish en masse.

"It's going to smell for a couple of days probably," Boothe apologetically told Oregon's KGW.

Some experts expect that deep ocean upwelling is going to become more common as sea levels rise across the globe and atmospheric wind patterns continue to change.

Earlier this month, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography spotted a massive school of countless anchovies passing by the California coast. Why exactly a school that size, which is normally seen in much deeper waters, was swimming along a coast-line remains a mystery.

Even earlier this summer, thousands of fish in Belmar, New Jersey similarly washed up dead along the shores of Shark River. Experts found that they were asphyxiated, suggesting a phenomenon similar to what is seen Necanium River. However, what was unusual was that veteran fishermen of Shark River reported that this was the first time a mass death happened at that location in thier lifetime.

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