It’s a bad sign when a beach is suddenly covered with thousands of dead fish. It’s a worse sign when every one of those fish mysteriously disappears without a trace just hours later. Marine biologists and tidal experts alike are at a loss to explain it. What happened?
The mystery began on the afternoon of September 2nd, 2015. Beach-goers noticed that the Buddina beach in the Sunshine Coast metropolitan area of Queensland was suddenly covered with thousands of dead and dying fish. Longtime resident and frequent beach-goer Susan Sheard took a picture of the fish and had these observations:
I have never seen fish like that at Buddina beach. Some of them were still alive, flipping around and I threw a few back in the water. But there were too many. There wasn’t a smell, it was obviously very new. The water was clean, there was no pollution in them.
It’s a good thing there’s experts who can come out and examine things and explain what happened. Unfortunately, the fish completely vanished from the beach in less than 24 hours, leaving nothing but impressions in the sand and nothing to analyze.
Most people would blame the mysterious disappearance on the tide, but Owen Benedick from the Wappa Falls Observatory says that wasn’t it.
King tides and really low tides are associated with a full or new moon, but it is not either of these at the moment.
With only the photographs to go on, experts couldn’t even determine what kind of fish they were. Ichthyologist Jeff Johnson from Queensland’s Museum was puzzled.
Deaths of this many of this type of fish are highly unusual for an open, ocean beach. Sardines are not usually part of trawler bycatch, so I could confidently rule that out. However it is very difficult to speculate on what may have been the cause, especially without a site inspection.
There are no tracks or footprints from birds, animals or humans picking up the fish and no bones, fins or remains at all.
What killed the fish on Buddina beach? What took them away before the cause could be determined? What’s going on in our oceans?