Another fish kill fuels debate over what's causing wildlife deaths

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - In all her years walking the Pass Christian beach, Michelle Alley said Thursday morning was different.

"I've really never seen this many seagulls. I walked this beach for about five years and it's really phenomenal. It's beautiful to see, but it's unusual," said Alley.

It didn't take long to figure out what had attracted all the birds. WLOX saw massive dead fish on the beach and in the water, along with crabs and sting rays.

Department of Marine Resource officials said it was the third fish kill reported to them in recent months. DMR officials sent a team out to take samples from a fish kill, but they said they already had a good idea of what happened.

"When we see real warm water, which is what's happening, we have low oxygen conditions," said Joe Jewel, DMR Assistant Director. "That's what we're attributing to the fish kills that we're aware of right now. Warm water, low oxygen, that's what's causing these fish kills."

Two commercial fishermen told WLOX they don't believe the heat is enough to cause as many fish kills as we've been seeing in our area lately. They say it's just not normal. Instead, they blame chemical dispersants for robbing the water of oxygen.

Jewell said, "What is unusual is that we have the oil spill. We have a lot of citizens that are concerned about the oil. They're concerned about that relationship, but our scientists out there investigating these fish kills and the DEQ has scientists that are out there."

"They're taking water samples and oxygen samples and what we can determine right here at this point is that it's not related to the oil," said Jewell.

DMR officials continued to stress that their tests show the seafood is safe to eat and they will continue to run tests.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.