The Santa Barbara waterfront experienced a die-off of small fish yesterday, but a harbor official said the phenomenon, a sporadic event that was likely caused by low oxygen levels, seemed to be ending today and was not a cause for concern.
Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said he suspects a lack of oxygen near the waterfront’s breakwater and marinas contributed to killing schools of anchovies, sardines, and small mackerel.
However, Kronman said the die-off was an anomaly that happened every few years with no discernable cause.
“From a harbormaster’s perspective, it’s just a mystery of the sea that happens now and then,” Kronman said, adding that algae blooms and red tides, the usual suspects for this sort of fish massacre, were not occurring in the harbor.
While it is the Waterfront Department’s responsibility to remove dead fish, Kronman said the harbor’s crabs and seagulls had been disposing of the fishes’ remains, sparing the Waterfront employees the trouble.
A similar die-off was also reported yesterday further south, where a similar school of fish was found dead in a narrow channel in Ventura Harbor, said Senior Patrol Officer at Ventura Harbor Pat Hummer.
Hummer speculates that the deaths could have been caused by the school swimming into the canal through a path cleared by recent dredging, before succumbing to oxygen depletion.
Kronman said the die-off in Santa Barbara appears to have ceased for the time being.