Thousands of dead anchovies have washed up this week in the town of Seaside, Oregon, providing a welcome feast for marine birds but a foul stench for tourists and residents of the popular beachside village northwest of Portland.
"It's certainly pungent," said Erin Paxton of the town's Oregon Coast Aquarium, describing the mass of tiny dead fish littering the banks of the Necanicum River, which parallels the coastline behind the beach before flowing into the Pacific
The anchovy die-off likely resulted from an upwell in ocean nutrients that allowed for an expansion of phytoplankton, microscopic plant-like organisms, which in turn reduced oxygen levels and turned the water more acidic than normal, Paxton said.
The anchovies were already weakened when they hit the mouth of the river, then "were at the mercy of the tide" as they were drawn upstream, she explained.
Thousands of fish have died since Monday, providing a buffet for pelicans and seagulls but leaving visitors alarmed by the sight of anchovy carcasses, according to the Daily Astorian.
The decaying fish also made for some unwelcome odors in town, which lies about 80 miles northwest of Portland.
"I'm sure the seabirds are happy and residents are holding their noses," Paxton said.