Tens of thousands of dead sea creatures wash ashore

Up to 20,000 fish and other sea creatures have washed ashore dead in Western Nova Scotia, in Canada. The exact cause of the mass deaths off the coast of one of Maritime provinces in eastern Canada, is so far confounding officials, and concerning observers.

Canadian authorities say as many as 20,000 fish, lobsters, starfish, scallops, crabs and other animals have washed ashore dead at Savary Provincial Park. The number of species involved has gradually expanded as more creatures have washed ashore. None of the dead fish and sea creatures are safe to eat, authorities said.

"Dead fish found on shore should not be collected by general public," the fisheries and oceans department tweeted. "Consumers should only purchase from licensed harvesters/sellers."

Toxic chemical exposure is one possible explanation, but thus far no positive test results have come back.

"Everything to date has come back negative," said Doug Wentzell of the fisheries and oceans department. "We're going back to the drawing board to make sure that we have not left any stone unturned."

Low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water can also kill fish, but that usually occurs in the summer, as "warm water holds less dissolved oxygen than cold water," the United States Geological Survey says.

Marine ecologist Kent Smedbol told Canadian television that storm runoff, human-made pollutant, agricultural runoff, or a recently new tidal turbine are all possible explanations.

"A new five-storey-high underwater turbine started generating power for consumers," in the area in November, Smedbol said. "Many armchair scientists believe this is the cause of the die-off."

Locals and passersby are perturbed.

"We went down and [saw] masses of dead sea life," Eric Hewey, a native of the area, told the National Post Wednesday. "Anecdotally, nobody we know has ever seen this happen, and it causes a lot of emotions. This is the livelihoods of so many people, and indirectly other people."

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