Thousands of menhaden washed up on the beaches in Ocean City; they appear to have been dead for a least a week, said Dawn Stoltzfus, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The department says wind pushed the dead fish to the shore, she added. Stoltzfus said an estimated 100,000 fish were seen on the coastline.
The dead fish may have come from the Delaware Bay, Stoltzfus said, but an investigation into where they came from and what caused the deaths is ongoing. Some of the fish were missing heads.
Water quality doesn't seem to have been a factor since other fish species in the area appear to be fine, Stoltzfus said.
"At this point, it looks like a sort of one-time event that's finished because we aren't seeing any new ones appearing today," Stoltzfus said Monday.
Throughout the weekend, beach resort residents and visitors traded news about sightings of the dead, headless fish.
The incident prompted an angry call for enforcement action from the top beach safety officer at Rehoboth Beach.
"I'm confident that things will be worked out, but it's a smelly annoyance," said Beach Patrol Capt. Kent Buckson, who said the headless, tailless fish were likely dumped or spilled from a commercial vessel. They appeared on the shoreline Saturday.
Buckson said beachgoers had been warned not to touch the fish that started washing ashore by the hundreds shortly after 2 p.m. Cleanup crews were quickly called to clear away those that already had landed. City officials eventually dispatched a beach sweeper to comb the shoreline, with lifeguards clearing away visitors ahead of the machine.
Bill Svolis, whose family owns Gus & Gus Place restaurant on the boardwalk, said the fishy wave caused little stir beyond the sand.
"It's pretty weird," Svolis said, "but we haven't had any customers talking about it this afternoon."
Buckson predicted that other resort beaches would be affected as the tides shifted. Read More