die-off smaller than in past
The Associated Press
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Tiny, silver -- and dead -- alewives
have reappeared on west Michigan beaches, though officials
say in much smaller numbers than in past years.
Thousands of the fish wash up on beaches every few years
in a natural die-off, posing a foul-smelling and unsightly
situation for beach-goers.
But this year's wash-ups appear to be hit-or-miss and
have not kept people away from the Lake Michigan shore
in Allegan and Ottawa counties, unlike intrusions in 1999
"It's spotty along the beach," Dave Vanderwel,
director at Camp Geneva, told The Grand Rapids Press for
a Wednesday story. He said the alewives have not been
much of an inconvenience for employees or guests at the
camp north of Holland.
"We have our waterfront staff rake them up and bury
them," he said.
Environmental and fish experts said this year's alewife
appearance was not unexpected. The June spawning season
and rising lake temperatures can be too stressful on the
"The alewives have a tough time with harsh winters,"
said Chuck Pistis, director of the Michigan State University
Cooperative Extension Service in Grand Haven.
Alewives are believed to have migrated into Lake Ontario
through the St. Lawrence Seaway years ago, then spread
throughout the Great Lakes.
Pistis said this year's die-off may be less than in other
years for several reasons, including the level of stress
on the fish, general nutrition available in the lakes
and their overall population.
"Compared to the 1960s, the population now is a
shadow of its former self," he said.
That did not make the group of dead fish at Laketown
Township Beach south in Allegan County near Holland any
more pleasant for 24-year-old Sonia Thompson of North
Carolina, who relaxed on the beach Tuesday afternoon.
"I never like it," said Thompson, a Holland
native, as she watched her 5-year-old niece play in the
sand. "I stay away from them, but I always expect
some when I visit the beach."