BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — High temperatures and storms are responsible for a rise in fish kills in the central and southern parts of Louisiana, according to the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) — but it’s just a regular part of nature.
Weather conditions are causing a depletion of oxygen in bodies of water across the state, causing fish to essentially suffocate. The condition is known as hypoxia, and it’s a natural part of the ecosystem, even though it can seem alarming, according to LDWF officials.
“Heat- and storm-related fish kills have occurred in Louisiana since before recorded history, and the ecosystems have evolved to be resilient and bounce back from them,” the department stated in a release today. “…While fish kills are shocking to experience and can appear devastating, they often lead to a rejuvenated system that is healthy and naturally replenished in the following years.”
Officials explained that the warmer water becomes, the less oxygen it is able to carry. When powerful storms come along, they can stir up sediments which can further lower the available oxygen in the water. If oxygen levels fall below what a species can tolerate, it leads to a fish kill. But, LDWF officials also said that what’s bad for some fish is good news for other animals.
“Decomposers and scavengers, including microbes, crawfish, crabs, fish, alligators, turtles, raccoons, and birds, will do their part in helping to clean up fish carcasses,” stated the department. “Many fish and aquatic organisms will find refuge from the hypoxic waters and live to take part in the boom year of reproduction that will surely follow since there will be fewer predators and more resources available by next spring.”
It may not be great news, however, for those who manage waterways, hatcheries and fisheries that attempt to keep certain fish stocked. While the LDWF said its biologists can “recommend stocking following a storm if the need is warranted, but fisheries will normally recover naturally if we give them the time to do so. Therefore, stocking is usually not warranted unless it is some extremely unusual case.”