FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, August 5, 1999
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Deborah R. Kallgren, 804-692-0224
Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH (804) 359-9909
LOW DISSOLVED OXYGEN CAUSE OF DEAD FISH ON EASTERN SHORE
(Richmond, Va.) -- Approximately one million fish died in a fish kill that occurred earlier this week and more fish were observed dying today in a nearby area in seaside waters off the Eastern Shore. Both the Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are on the scene and are investigating. The fish kills are believed to have been caused by low dissolved oxygen in the water.
The fish kills occurred at Captain's Cove near the Maryland border in the Greenbackville area and initially discovered Tuesday, August 3. The Department of Environmental Quality investigated and returned to the area today to take follow-up water samples and found a fish kill in progress. Most were small menhaden, but some croaker, spot, grey trout and silversides were also found. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is on hand collecting fish samples for analysis.
"Based on interviews with people in the area, the initial fish kill occurred between 11 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday," said Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH, Assistant State Epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health and a spokesperson for the Virginia Pfiesteria Task Force. "Tests showed that oxygen levels in the water were 1 milligram per liter or less, which is extremely low.
"The water and fish samples are being analyzed and so far there has been no evidence of the presence of Pfiesteria. The dead fish do not exhibit lesions, which have been linked to Pfiesteria in the past," she said. Pfiesteria is a microscopic organism which can produce a toxin harmful to fish and, potentially, to humans.
"People should avoid eating fish with lesions or sores and avoid swimming where dead or dying fish are present," Dr. Jenkins added.
Water samples are being analyzed at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Additional water samples will be sent to a collaborating scientist, Dr. Parke Rublee, for genetic analysis to determine whether Pfiesteria is present.
On July 22, approximately 10,000 menhaden died in a fish kill in Bullbegger Creek near the mouth of the Pocomoke River. That fish kill is also believed to be caused by low dissolved oxygen. All tests for Pfiesteria turned up negative.
Virginians seeking information about Pfiesteria or who want to report a fish kill or health problems possibly associated with bad fish or river water may call the Virginia Pfiesteria hotline at 1-888-238-6154. Callers should be prepared to leave their name and a number where they may be reached during business hours, Monday through Friday.