For weeks, Lake Merritt has been stricken by a “red tide,” an enormous bloom of algae that has turned the water ruddy, rusty brown, ruined the oxygen levels in the water, with sad, predictable results. Today, the lake — actually an estuary linked to San Francisco Bay by a narrow ribbon of water — is ringed by dead fish. Many, many more fish corpses float in the shallows.

Not all the fish are dead, but they’ve all crowded close to shore and are being decimated by hungry pelicans.

Bat rays, one of the most sensitive species in the lake, are all dead by now. They are affected by low oxygen levels and die off quickly. We’ve always been happy to spot these magnificent creatures in the lake.

What the loss of all these fish will mean to the thousands of birds that depend on them for food remains to be seen. For now, the pelicans and cormorants are gorging themselves on schools of small fish forced into shallow water. But what will be left tomorrow, or next week?

And what will all those dead fish smell like?

People discuss the fish die-off on Monday afternoon.
Large dead fish on the bottom.
The whole shore of the lake is ringed by a necklace of dead fish.
A large dead fish floating off shore.
A dead bat ray.
Pelicans are gorging themselves on schools of fish forced close to shore.
We fished a dead bat ray out to study it.
A view of the stinger in the tail.
What will this snowy egret eat next week?
A lesson about Nature to remember.

One Comment on “Belly up

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