Thousands of dead fish washed ashore beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast. Here’s why.

Thousands of dead fish washed up on beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast as officials warned the public to stay away from the water because of high levels of bacteria. 

The fish, which were mostly menhaden, washed up “by the thousands,” Quintana Beach County Park officials said in a statement on Facebook Friday. By Sunday, park officials cleared the majority of the beach with the exception of fish the machinery couldn't get. 

“High tides over the next couple of days should sift the rest down into the sand and bury them,” park officials said. “It wouldn't hurt to give it a couple more days to let everything settle out before making that beach trip.”

Park officials began the removal process Friday and said the last dead fish washed up Sunday, which were mainly shredded skeletons. 

During the remov

Why did the fish die? 

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Kills and Spills Team, the fish died due to low dissolved oxygen levels. Warm water, calm seas and cloudy skies contributed to the deaths. 

"If there isn't enough oxygen in the water, fish can't ‘breathe,’” the team said in a statement process, park officials recommended visitors to not swim in the water due to high levels of bacteria and sharp fins on the fish.

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When water temperatures rise above 70 degrees, it becomes hard for menhaden to receive enough oxygen to survive since cooler water holds more oxygen than warmer water, park officials said. 

“Shallow waters warm more quickly than deeper, so if a school of menhaden are trapped in the shallows as the water begins to heat, the fish will start to suffer from hypoxia,” park officials said. 

Menhaden also need more waves to survive – which is one way oxygen enters the water. For about three weeks, beaches have experienced very calm seas with very little wave action. 

Another way oxygen enters the water is through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis may slow down on cloudy days, which decreases the dissolved oxygen concentration, park officials said. 

“We’ve had a lot of overcast days,” park officials said. “It was the perfect storm to deplete the oxygen levels inshore.”

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No evidence of a chemical release, park officials say

Park officials said water samples taken from the Intracoastal Canal and near the Brazos River locks had almost no dissolved oxygen.

“There was NO evidence of a chemical release of any kind, so please put those theories to rest and do not spread misinformation,” park officials said.

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