Massive La. Fishkill Prompts Oil Spill Questions

A river of dead fish stretches to the horizon near Plaquemines, La. in this September, 2010 photo. Oil and dispersants from the BP oil spill, as well as oxygen levels, are being eyed as possible causes of the fish kill. WWL

This story originally appeared on the website of CBS affiliate WWL-TV in New Orleans. It was reported by Maya Rodriguez
It's been a rough summer in some of the waters around Plaquemines Parish in Lousiana - first, hit by the oil spill, and now, hit with fish kills .

"This is an extremely large fish kill, and there are many species in there," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. "It's not just one group of fish-- it's redfish and trout and flounder. All species have been identified in this fish kill."

Plaquemines Parish officials spotted a massive fish kill on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish were floating west of the Mississippi River, in Bayou Chaland. It came several days after the discovery of starfish kill in nearby Barataria Bay. Then, on Monday, came the discovery of a dead baby whale near Venice.

Whether any of those incidents are related to the oil spill remains a big question. Some local officials believe more testing could provide an answer.

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"We're talking about long-term testing of the quality of the water, the fish, and the environment," Nungesser said. "And we don't see a collective group really wanting to know what's going on. And we need to demand that happens."

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries sent biologists to Friday's fish kill to try and determine what may have caused it.

They declined to do an on-camera interview, but sent a statement to Eyewitness News about their findings.

"It was the result of low levels of dissolved oxygen," said Wildlife and Fisheries spokesperson Olivia Watkins. "This particular body of water becomes isolated during periods of low tide.... low tide kept the fish trapped in the body of water without access to the Gulf, limiting the available dissolved oxygen and killing the fish."

Still, concerns abound, not just about oil, but also about what impact oil spill dispersants, like Corexit, may have had on the environment. Nearly 2 million gallons of it were sprayed over the Gulf and underwater at the site of the broken wellhead.

"Here we are, trying to get our fishing back, trying to get our seafood back and with these kind of fish kills, it will going to have a lasting effect, if we don't do something about it," Nungesser said.

Watch WWL-TV's original report:
In the meantime, the parish has asked the two federal agencies, the EPA and NOAA, to investigate the fish kills. As for the dead whale, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is currently storing it in a freezer. They are now in discussions with NOAA and the Audubon Institute about who will conduct the necropsy to determine the cause of death.
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