Erie fish kill puzzles scientists
Dead fish littering the shores of Lake Erie are baffling
For the third consecutive year, dead fish dot the beaches
east of Port Dover to Port Colborne and although there are
theories, nobody knows exactly what is causing the fish
"It's amazing the scale of what's going on," said Phil Ryan,
the manager for the Port Dover Ministry of Natural Resources
"It's a big research mystery."
While the ministry suspects it is the toxin created by type
E botulism that is killing the fish, they don't know anything
for a scientific fact.
"Hopefully it's temporary," Ryan said. "We're keeping our
The ministry also suspects that exotic zebra mussels and
gobies are involved, but they aren't certain how they factor
in exactly. "We only have circumstantial evidence," Ryan
Jeff Robinson, a biologist with Environment Canada, said
the whole situation is "really puzzling."
Robinson said he shares the ministry's theory and believes
that botulism is a side-effect from the introduction of
species like zebra mussels into Lake Erie.
"This whole episode of exotic species (zebra mussels and
gobies) coming in from the Caspian Sea has really turned
the ecology of Lake Erie on its head," he said.
Robinson speculated that with the introduction of gobies
and zebra mussels, bottom-feeding animals have taken over
and become very effective in moving things around, including
"People are starting to do research with the idea that there
might be something done to prevent this," he said.
Ryan said the ministry wants to make sure everybody knows
to cook their fish.
"This is where we all step very carefully but people can
die from botulism if they ingest the toxin," he said.
Health Canada is joining with Environment Canada and the
Ministry of Natural Resources to research the levels of
toxins in fish meat from Lake Erie.
"Right now, we haven't done that so we can't say what the
risk is," said Dr. John Austin, the chair of the Botulism
Reference Service for Canada.
Austin said botulism is a relatively new phenomenon in the
The Haldimand Health Unit is not aware of the potential
outbreak, according to spokesperson Glen Steen.
"We have not been officially notified by anyone," he said.
"We are not aware of any fish kill."
John Cooper, spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources,
said: "Type E has caused illness and death in other areas
of Canada. We may be having an outbreak of botulism, but
we don't have anything to confirm it."