Volunteers turn out to help clean up dead fish in Redondo Beach

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Susan Valot/KPCC

A volunteer signs up at the Redondo Beach Community Emergency Response Team table to help clean up dead fish in King Harbor in Redondo Beach on March 9, 2011.

Professional cleanup crews aren’t the only ones rolling up their sleeves to help clean up the millions of dead sardines in King Harbor in Redondo Beach. About 200 volunteers showed up to help with the stinky mess.

In front of an abandoned restaurant by the harbor, the fish cleanup volunteers check in at a couple of tables under a blue canopy.

There are stacks of orange buckets nearby, along with a map of the harbor.

The volunteers sign up, then head out in teams.

Sandy Marchese is with the Redondo Beach Community Emergency Response Team, which trains for emergencies like this. She is in charge of the volunteers.

"They’re going out in teams of four and five, and actually using a net, buckets and working as a team and collecting the fish that are in the harbor," Marchese says.

Margie Wehling of Torrance sits nearby, wearing a straw hat, ready to go. She says she came out because she likes to volunteer in her community.

"It’s a local problem. It’s a local emergency," Wehling says. "And obviously no one wants to smell fish for the next weeks. So I felt I will help out with the cleanup and maybe it’ll save some tax dollars."

Jessica Zerga is a substitute teacher from Torrance who’s spent a couple of her days off helping out.

"It wasn’t too bad. It’s a little gross," she says. "I feel bad for the ecosystem and the other fish in there."

Crews and volunteers have removed more than 30 tons of dead fish. They have about the same amount – or more – to go, but they have the nets, buckets, vacuums and people to get there.

The Redondo Beach Community Emergency Response Team has set up a volunteer hotline, which will be updated with volunteer information at about 8pm each day during the cleanup. The hotline is (310) 318-8111.

Heal the Bay has also put out a call for volunteers to help with the cleanup.

All volunteers should check in at 655 N. Harbor Dr. in Redondo Beach, the site of the former Red Onion restaurant.

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