TC Media – Cape Breton Post – Dozens of dead mackerel were visible from the home of Annette Coffin, Monday morning. A week ago hundreds could be seen.The discovery of hundreds of dead mackerel in the Bras d’Or Lake has area residents wondering what caused the fish to die.
Annette Coffin, a resident of Ben Eoin, first discovered dead fish in the water in front of her home a week ago.
“Last Monday morning, there were dead fish everywhere, on the shore and in the water,” she said. “They were sort of under the ice — there was a light coating of ice, and there were tons of them on the beach, and when I came out and had a look they were everywhere.”
Coffin said there were at least 200 dead mackerel visible from her waterfront home, which is located across from Ski Ben Eoin. On Monday, a week after Coffin made the initial discovery, there were still dozens of dead mackerel in the water near the shore, with seagulls and other birds circling the area as they have been for days.
Having just become a year-round resident of the area in the last few years, Coffin checked with some of her neighbours who also spotted lots of dead mackerel in the waters in front of their homes.
Coffin, who has since heard reports that the dead mackerel stretch at least as far as Big Pond, said everyone was surprised by the discovery.
“It was new to me but it was also new to some of the longtime neighbours,” she said. “We have some people who think that with the change in the weather — the mild November — that they didn’t make it to the ocean and that they were without oxygen and just basically froze to death when the cold weather hit. That’s one theory.”
Coffin said she contacted various fisheries officials to report the situation.
“I’m pretty sure they died of natural causes but we would like to be sure because this is a protected waterway,” she said.
Coffin said it’s her understanding an official came to the site last week and took a couple of the dead fish and water samples for testing.
An official with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans directed the Cape Breton Post to Environment Canada. No one from Environment Canada responded to calls for comment Monday.
According to the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture website, Atlantic mackerel are found in open ocean during the winter months where water temperatures are at or above 7 C, with the optimum temperature range for adults being from 9 C to 12 C. In the spring, as the water warms, schools of mackerel begin their migration to inshore waters, like the Bras d’Or Lake.