A massive die-off of fish in a harbor in Marina Del Rey over the weekend that left thousands of anchovies dead was most likely due to oxygen depletion, according to state officials.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that the fish-tastrophe, though visually shocking, was a natural occurrence that happens occasionally up and down the coast.
"We receive various reports of fish die-offs throughout the year in harbors, and while the sight may be startling to some, this is not considered to be too unusual. It happens from time to time," said Janice Mackey, spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Mackey said that biologists for the department had conducted an aerial survey of the beaches last week and noticed a large school of anchovies outside of the surf.
"We suspect these were the same ones that were found later in the harbor and may have sought cover from a predator species," Mackey said.
The fish most likely then became trapped in the harbor and then panicked. The resulting frenzy depleted the water of oxygen and caused the fish to suffocate.
Images of the harbor from over the weekend showed a surface of water, completely covered by the floating fish bodies. Residents were concerned that the smell of decaying fish would be overpowering, and crews began work to clean up the site.
As of Tuesday, county workers had collected approximately 300 bags of fish, each weighing 45 pounds. Some of the fish were tested in California Department of Fish and Wildlife laboratories, which led scientists to conclude that the mass death was natural and an isolated incident.
"At this time, we don't think any other species are at risk over there," Mackey said.