There’ll be a big fish fry in Oakland, but not the good kind. The toxic algal bloom that has killed literally tons of fish in Bay Area waters is leading to Oakland Public Works incinerating the 1,200 pounds of dead fish that were floating in Lake Merritt.
The Dead Fish Wave of Summer 2022, believed to be caused by a “red tide” toxic algal bloom, has been spreading through waters all over the Bay Area since late July. Huge volumes of dead fish have been turning up at Coyote Point Marina in San Mateo, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Fremont, but most famously, probably because of the amount of foot traffic there, at Oakland's Lake Merritt.
Update: clean-up crews have made significant progress -- removing 1200lbs of dead fish from the Lake Merritt shoreline today -- and will continue tomorrow. Check out the before and after photos below! Updates are available on the City's website here https://t.co/K0L5Gaa34u pic.twitter.com/vF5kula4Jh— City of Oakland (@Oakland) September 1, 2022
The heat wave kicking in is only expected to increase the algal bloom and the numbers of dead fish, but the City of Oakland has dutifully noted in a public post their “clean-up of the lake's shoreline, removing the dead wildlife to mitigate the odor and public nuisance ahead of forecasted hot weather.”
‘Hella stanky’: Crews begin removing dead fish from Lake Merritt ahead of heat wave— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) August 31, 2022
Residents began seeing dead fish at Lake Merritt and other areas last weekend. People are urged to keep children and pets out of the water.
Read more: https://t.co/JcHO3eYyvW pic.twitter.com/kh76hv6Ury
But the Chronicle adds a key detail about the dead fish clean-up operation. The paper reported late Wednesday afternoon that the fish will "be incinerated, according to city protocol." That's according to Sean Maher, public information officer for the city’s Public Works Department.
Even seeing the photos, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of morality at #LakeMerritt. Tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of dead fish among the kills #fishkill #oakland pic.twitter.com/EDUd9AZE08— Dr. Stephanie Carlson (@fishteph) August 30, 2022
According to the City of Oakland’s announcement, “Contracted cleanup crews are scheduled to begin this work on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 31,” and that same announcement noted that the cleanup will continue Thursday. “Crews will wear protective gear in an abundance of caution. Community members are asked to watch for signage and work crews/vehicles to enable these crews to perform this work.”
https://t.co/tL0SK8evLF— Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha) August 29, 2022
“I’ve seen red tide before, but not on this scale,” said James Robinson, the Lake Merritt Institute’s executive director. “It’s heartbreaking to come out here and see all these dead fish.” pic.twitter.com/hSWrGhw9bw
The algal bloom has been brewing for months, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board never expected things to get this bad. “Oakland officials posted warning signs in May after finding contaminants associated with a low level of harmful algae in the water, as well as water scum,” according to the Chronicle. “The water board performed additional testing on Aug. 22, but the results were not available as of Wednesday morning.”
Massive fish die off going on right now in Lake Merritt #oakland #fish #lakemerritt— Damon Tighe (@damontighe) August 28, 2022
May be related to the HUGE algal bloom that’s been happening on the east bay since the start of the month in front of Alameda where effluent flows…https://t.co/1H1byxoWOk pic.twitter.com/FJBAU0InIb
But of course, people did not need those results to notice that dead fish have been floating on the lake’s surface since this past weekend.
“We're known for our seafood dishes, so nobody wants to eat seafood dishes with the smell of rotten fish around them”: Staff at a seafood restaurant on Lake Merritt in Oakland have scooped out approximately 150 pounds of dead fish in the last two days.https://t.co/rgIJDZa9tf— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) September 1, 2022
Crews do expect to complete the cleanup today. The City of Oakland asks for help, advising that “property owners can avoid over-irrigation of landscapes (such as overwatering lawns) to prevent excess nutrients from entering waterways.” They also add that “we all need to continue working to keep Lake Merritt clean — littering, especially food and food containers, may contribute nutrients to the Lake that feed these harmful algal blooms.” But as seen in the above tweet, Lake Merritt-adjacent restaurant Lake Chalet took matters into their own hands and cleared out some dead fish themselves, because according to the Chronicle, the place is “losing customers due to the stench.”
The City of Oakland describes this as “the odor.” Oakland resident Marcus Wells instead describes it to the Chronicle as “hella stanky.”
Image: @Oakland via Twitter