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Do Circulating Photographs Show a Mass Fish Death In California Caused by the Japanese Tsunami?

Outline
Title of a message circulating via email and social media suggests that a mass fish death in California depicted in a series of attached photographs was caused by the Japanese tsunami of March, 2011.



Brief Analysis
The mass fish death shown in the photographs did take place. The images show an event that occurred in King Harbor at Redondo Beach, in Southern California. However, the event happened several days before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. There is no credible evidence of a connection between the two events.

Update
A new version of the message suggests that the fish death was caused by radiation leaked from Japan's stricken nuclear power station. Again, there is no connection between the two events and the fish death took place well before the earthquake and the subsequent problems with the Fukushima power station.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.



Last updated: 12th March 2011
First published: 5th March 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: Effects of Japan Tsunami in California

Mass fish death in California after Japan Tsunami

Mass Fish Death 1

Mass Fish Death 2

Mass Fish Death 3

Editor's Note: The original message has a large number of other photographs of the mass fish death that have not been included here.




Detailed Analysis
According to a message that is currently circulating via email and social media, a mass fish death depicted in a series of attached photographs was the result of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. The message notes that the fish death took place in California.

The mass fish death shown in the photographs certainly did take place and the location was indeed California. However, the event has no connection with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The fish death took place on March 8, 2011 in King Harbor at Redondo Beach, Southern California. The Japanese earthquake occurred several days later on March 11, 2011.

A March 8 AFP news report notes:
Millions of dead fish were found floating in a California harbor after apparently becoming trapped and expiring due to lack of oxygen, experts said. The silver-colored fish appeared overnight at King Harbor in Redondo Beach, where the surface of the water was covered, said officials. Locals suggested that high winds might have pushed the fish -- initially reported to be anchovies, but later identified as sardines -- into the marina south of Los Angeles. But police spokesman Phil Keenan suggested they were likely chased in by other fish.
And a March 8 Associated Press article concurs, noting:
An estimated one million fish turned up dead Tuesday in a Southern California marina, creating a floating feast for pelicans, gulls and other sea life and a stinky mess for harbor authorities. The sardines apparently depleted the water of oxygen and suffocated after getting lost in the marina, officials said. "All indications are it's a naturally occurring event," said Andrew Hughan, a California Fish and Game spokesman at the scene. The die-off was unusual but not unprecedented.
There have been several theories put forward as to what may have caused the fish to come into the harbor. However, a March 12 report in the Los Angeles Times indicates that toxin found in the dead fish may explain their behaviour. The article explains:
Researchers still believe critically low oxygen levels, not the toxin or an algae bloom, caused the fish to suddenly die Monday night in the Redondo Beach marina.

But the discovery of domoic acid in dead fish reported Friday by USC biologists could help explain why millions of sardines swam into the harbor in the first place.
Research into the exact cause of the mass fish death is continuing. However, no credible reports have connected the event to the Japanese earthquake. While Gurban Jalal Etirmishli, an Azerbaijan based scientist, has reportedly suggested a possible link between foreshocks leading up to the major earthquake and the fish death in California, this can hardly be seen as a credible theory. Etirmishli apparently postulated the possible link to a Russian tabloid news outlet, noting:
"During the first underground movements on March 8, toxic gases and even radiation could have oozed out, becoming a reason for the death of the fish," Etirmishli said. "If, in the near future, a similar thing happens, it can be a sign of a coming earthquake."
However, Etirmishli's statements are pure conjecture and he has offered "absolutely no proof" for his theory. Domoic acid, the toxin identified as being present in the dead fish, is produced by algae or plankton when it blooms and has no connection to toxins released by undersea earthquakes. Moreover, earthquakes of a similar magnitude as the foreshocks that precede March's major earthquake off Japan regularly occur in the region. A LiveScience report about the earthquake notes that the Japan Trench has seen nine events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973.

Update: 11th April 2011

An updated version of the message claims that the fish death was caused by radiation leaking from Japan's stricken Fukushima power station. However, as noted above, the earthquake and the subsequent problems with the power station occurred well after the mass fish death. The fish death has no connection to radiation contamination from the Fukushima plant.

Bookmark and Share References
Mass fish death in California harbor
Mass fish death fouls California marina
Toxin found in dead sardines
California: Dead fish = earthquake predictor? Domoic Acid Fact Sheet
The Science Behind Japan's Deadly Earthquake



Last updated: 5th March 2011
First published: 5th March 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer