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35 tons of dead sardines scooped from King Harbor so far; cleanup costs top $100,000

Madelyn Sawyer scoops up dead fish floating in King Harbor.

The effort to rid King Harbor of millions of dead fish before they start to decay had the look of a lab experiment Wednesday.

Boats trawled slowly through the Redondo Beach marina, dragging nets behind them to capture fish from a thick layer of carcasses deposited on the harbor bottom.

Volunteers wearing rubber gloves went from slip to slip scooping floating clusters of sardines with fishing nets and plucking individual, hot-dog sized fish from the water.

Firefighters aimed a hose at the harbor bottom to try to agitate the fish for a diver to capture. And a sewer vacuum truck was converted to suck fish from the water with a long plastic hose that had the look of an elephant's trunk.

Redondo Beach officials said it will take several days and cost at least $100,000 to clean up King Harbor after the sudden fish die-off that began Monday evening.

By the end of the day Tuesday, public works crews had removed 35 tons of fish, mostly by skimming the ocean surface. They expect at least that amount have collected on the bottom of the inner harbor in a 2-foot-thick layer.

About 200 city workers and 75 volunteers are working to get as many fish as they can out of the harbor and into plastic-lined dumpsters before the animals start to decay and cause further problems.

As the fish start to decompose, oxygen-eating bacteria could cause levels to dip a second time and kill anything else living in the harbor. The decay also could boost nutrients in the harbor, leading to an algae bloom that could also deplete oxygen to critically low levels.

"The smell is going to be horrific," said Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Phil Keenan.

"The quicker we remove the decaying fish the better opportunity we have for recovery," said Bill Workman, Redondo Beach's city manager. "Time is of the essence; we have to move quickly."


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-- Tony Barboza at King Harbor

Photo:  Madelyn Sawyer scoops up dead fish floating in King Harbor. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (16)

Dead fish, they say, makes good fertilizer. Perhaps some of this can be used for landscaping.

somethin fishy goin on here

i was there earlier today and a LOT of the fish was cleaned up but a lot of them also sank below. there were so many birds and seals (sea lions maybe? idk) and the smell is horrible. a lot of the fish washed up in between the rocks along the marina walls, and there was a huge vacuum truck sucking up all the bodies.

there were schools of mackerel swimming just below the surface too, and they would pop up every now and then to eat the dead floating fish

i thought there would be more birds but they were all so fat and full from the feeding frenzy yesterda

What are they going to do with all those dead fish? That would be interesting to put that info in the story.

This is typical liberal tax and spend nonsense, right? These dead fish should have to get jobs and pay to clean themselves up, or at least the whales who drove the fish to King Harbor to die there should have to pay to clean them up. Cleaning up dead fish is not a legitimate government function, right? If the smell of the rotting fish bothers people, they should vote with their feet and leave Redondo Beach! WHEN ARE WE GOING TO WAKE UP AMAERICA!!1!1!~11~!!!

what killed the sardines ?? that is the big question.

someone probably dumped a chemical into the water at night.

Where do all the dead fish go? I would hope there is some productive use for them as fertilizer or something..

A question from my curiosity: Where are all the seagulls? Tens of thousands of dead, dying and rotten fish and not one gull to be had?

All the pictures and videos I've seen of the story show lots of dead fish, but nothing else. Can anyone explain?

Why is there cost in cleanup?

Either unionized city worker should do this as part of their job or slip owners to pay, not taxpayers, right?

The end is coming!!

I'm wondering how soon these fish will be shipped to China to be made into cat food. Also, will this fish kill be swept under the rug, just liked all the other fish kills? But, don't worry, this just means you'll be paying a lot more for your next fish dinner.

They may indeed make good fertilizer, but do you really want that smell in your yard?

How do they figure it will cost $100,000? Why don't they just haul some of the sardines out to sea, and let other fish eat them.


Nobody put chemicals in the water. These fish live way out in the open ocean. Use logic dude, there are millions of these things closer to the size of 2 hotdogs. They wouldnt want to be ina lifeless harbor, there is no plankton for them to eat...


Birds and seagulls and seals prefer live sardines. Though they will take a dead one , or two, or three, the site of these dead fish wouldnt create the same feeding frenzy like they would if they were alive and kicking....

i live on lake michigan and as a kid there were schools of hundreds of sardine-size fish called alewives along all of the jetties and piers. then they washed up onto the shore by the thousands. thought it was a natural thing well now were lucky to see a school of twenty. related?

Way to go Grandmothers On the Run! They may be grandmothers but they are also running to help out in an emergency.


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