clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Scary Dead Fish Explained: Circle of Life

New, 9 comments

In regards to the post about why carp are dying along the banks of the Los Angeles River, Larry Kaplan forwarded the June newsletter put out by Friends of the Los Angeles River. It seems these fish just spawned and now are done--with life. Key graf: "As hard as it may be to see such large numbers of fish dead, it is very possible that this is just the end of their life cycle. Rest assured that their last act was to re-populate the River with a new generation."

But to the beginning of the newsletter: "Last week, we started receiving calls and emails saying that large numbers of fish were stranded and dead in shallow stretches of the LA River near Los Feliz. Concerned neighbors reported seeing fish dead or flopping about uselessly on a flat, empty section of the River. One resident said he counted as many as 60 fish in the area. Questions were raised about what is causing the die off and what effect this might have on the birds and other River-life."

Initially, there was some speculation that runoff from the Universal City fire might have contaminated the River, or that the temperature of the water had increased so quickly from that runoff that the fish were effected. We then got a report that someone had seen large numbers of dead fish over Memorial Day weekend, one week before the Universal City fire, discounting that possibility.

We asked Sabrina Drill, a fish biologist helping with our Fish Study, what she thought might be causing the deaths - and she went out to see for herself. Unfortunately, the fish had all washed downstream by the time she got there, but she did observe that the rest of the ecosystem seemed unchanged. She speculated that this might just be their seasonal post-spawn die-off, something that happens to River fish populations. The LA River is a unique habitat, and the residents of the River show some unique characteristics and behaviors that we are still just learning about.

As hard as it may be to see such large numbers of fish dead, it is very possible that this is just the end of their life cycle. Rest assured that their last act was to re-populate the River with a new generation.

Although Carp is not native to the LA River, and many would say that as tough opportunists, they are a sign of an unhealthy eco-system, we do hope that the attention they are getting will pave the way for the return of native fish species.

Thank you to those of you who have called or sent emails about the fish -any new developments will be communicated to anyone interested. Your concerns are our concerns, and when we can't be out on the River ourselves, we rely on you to report what you've seen. We are working on a report form so that you can quickly and easily give us the pertinent information when you have something to report. In the meantime, please feel free to send an email to mail@folar.org if you observe anything unusual in the River.