A state fish kill hotline received several calls from southeast Florida in the past few days following last week’s heavy rains.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials and the South Florida Water Management District said it’s possible to have an uptick in fish dying with the heavy discharges made to keep communities from flooding during a deluge of rain this month.
“The first big flush like this would likely contain nutrients that would lower oxygen levels in the water,” said Randy Smith, a spokesman for the district. “Local drainage districts have been pumping hard.”
In Boynton Beach, residents of the Manatee Bay Apartments called the fish kill hotline after 18 dead fish were counted along the Intracoastal waterway near their complex.
“They seem to be likely related to the storms,” said FWC spokeswoman Michelle Kerr about the dead fish.
Kerr said it’s possible the fish were washed into the Intracoastal and killed by the salinity difference between freshwater and the brackish Intracoastal or saltwater of the Atlantic. It’s also true that heavy rains and discharges can increase the amount of organic matter – grass and leaves – that will decompose in the water.
That decomposition can remove oxygen from the water, Kerr said.
The 16-county region managed by the South Florida Water Management District received an average of 9.6 inches of rain through Saturday. That’s 7.13 inches above normal.
Tom Vaughn, a resident of Manatee Bay Apartments in Boynton Beach, said he fears there will be more dead fish as a result of the heavy rains.
“This may be just the tip of the iceberg sampling of a larger ecological condition,” he said.