MALIBU (CBSLA) – Employees with California State Parks had the unenviable task Monday of cleaning up hundreds of dead fish which washed up last week in Malibu Lagoon.
Scientists are trying to determine what caused the massive die-off, which was discovered Thursday along Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Employees were wearing face masks as they pulled out the fish, put them in bags and carted them away in wheelbarrows. The fish were mostly mullets.
Craig Sap, superintendent for California State Parks Angeles District, says that at this point, scientists believe unusually warm water temperatures at least partially contributed to the deaths of an estimated 1,500 fish.
“In addition to that warm weather, we’ve had a condition where we weren’t getting the coastal fog we would have to kind of keep the temperatures down,” Sap said. “And again, that’s just a working theory. We’re taking water tests, we’ve taken fish for testing.”
Resident Andy Lyon blames the deaths on the controversial lagoon restoration project, completed in 2013. He claims it resulted in the lagoon’s waters not mixing properly with the ocean, which trapped the fish.
At the time, the restoration efforts were met with considerable opposition from environmental activists and neighbors, who argued it would significantly hurt wildlife.
“What’s not natural is that this amount of water is stuck behind the sand berm in the middle of the summer,” Lyon said Monday. “This thing needs to be cut, it needs to be cut up at the top of the beach here and flushed out.”
Sap says that state and federal laws prohibit a man-made breech in order to protect endangered fish. However, he says scientists will look into whether other changes can be made to nudge water flow and improve circulation.
Sap also counters that the lagoon project improved oxygen levels, allowing fish populations to thrive. He says that last week’s kill is ironic in that it is evidence of their growing numbers.