Crews use an air hose to pump water into King Harbor in Redondo Beach on March 9, 2011, to stir up dead fish, so they can scoop the fish into nets or guide them onto shore, where workers can vacuum them up.
Work crews and volunteers have removed most of the dead sardines that were floating on the surface in Redondo Beach’s King Harbor. But millions remain under the surface of the water, and they are beginning to stink.
Scientists told officials it will take about three days for the dead fish on the bottom to start rotting and bloating and coming to the surface.
The millions of fish died off Monday night into Tuesday morning, when too many sardines entered the harbor and they ran out of oxygen. Officials said it's similar to putting too many fish in an aquarium.
They’ve removed about 35 tons of dead fish so far. Most of the fish that blanketed the surface are gone. But officials believe there are just as many - or more - on the harbor floor.
Volunteers and professional work crews continued to use nets and buckets today to scoop the remaining dead fish out of the water.
The big challenge of the day was coming up with ways to get the fish off of the bottom of the harbor.
Redondo Beach Police Sergeant Phil Keenan said other workers used air hoses to stir up the fish on the harbor floor. The air hoses made the areas where crews were working bubble like a jacuzzi or jetted bathtub.
"What they’re trying to do is to push the fish back onto the rocks, off the sediment floor, onto the rocks, where they can suck it up with a more powerful vacuum that doesn’t upset the sediment floor," Keenan explained. "Because when you pick up the sediment, according to marine biologists, it creates a whole new problem."
Officials plan to bring in so-called “soft vacuums” tomorrow. They're designed to suck up the fish from the bottom of the harbor, without removing the sediment.
Keenan said they are working to get as many fish carcasses out as they can, as quickly as they can.
"I would expect by tomorrow we’re going to start having a lot more smell," Keenan said. "In fact, when they were disrupting the fish on the bottom and getting them up onto the rocks, you could smell the smell coming from the bottom. And it's an indication of what we’re going to be dealing with tomorrow."