LOS ANGELES Millions of anchovies washed up dead early on Tuesday in the harbor area of Redondo Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles, puzzling authorities and triggering a cleanup effort.
Local television news footage showed the mass of dead fish, said by a police spokesman to be about a foot deep on the surface, choking the waters in and around dozens of private boat slips in the King Harbor Marina.
"We're having millions of anchovies die off in our harbor," Redondo Beach police Sergeant Phil Keenan told Reuters in a telephone interview. "At this point it's an unknown reason."
He said one possible explanation was that too many of the fish had congregated into a relatively small area, exhausting the water's oxygen supply, "but that's still to be determined."
Anchovies are prey for bigger fish and marine mammals, so large numbers may have swarmed into the harbor from deeper waters seeking shelter, he said.
"The issue now is cleanup because we have tons and tons of dead fish rotting and purifying, which obviously creates hazardous material," Keenan said. "We're in the process of figuring out what were going to do."
Trudy Padilla, the marina's tenant services coordinator, said the dead fish suddenly began showing up overnight, and that one end of the marina has been blocked off as cleanup operations get organized.
She said the smell of decay has not become so strong yet, "but it's going to if they don't clean up the fish."
King Harbor Marina provides 850 boat slips to private vessels.
(Writing and reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)