Earlier this month, a large amount of dead striped bass (striper) being reported washed up in the Falmouth Mass. Salt Ponds. This caused a lot of concern among anglers worried about a possible pollution event or algal bloom/red tide. Thankfully the MA Division of Marine Fisheries has determined that what killed the fish was actually none of the above but something weirder than anyone expected. The striped bass actually ate themselves to death.
The MA DMF determined that the fish gorged so heavily on the recent hatch of cinder worms that recently spawned in the Salt Ponds that they died. Cinder worms are small marine worms that live in the mud of the salt ponds and surrounding estuaries and have mass spawning events in the spring that last for about two to four weeks. The dead striped bass that were sampled by the MA DMF were observed to be fully engorged with the cinder worms to the point that the worms were even in the fish’s gills. Essentially the fish were such gluttons that they choked themselves out with the cinders worms. While this occurrence is a bit shocking and unusual, the DMF states that it isn’t entirely uncommon.
The MA DMF also tested the water in the Salt Ponds and concluded that the fish did not die of the original concerns that anglers had, such as poor water quality/pollution, a harmful algal bloom/ red tide, or anthropogenic reasons. None of the fish that the DMF officials observed had signs of fishing-related injuries or fishing gear on them. The dead fish have been washing up for at least a week now, so hopefully the event should be already coming to an end. If the dead fish continue to wash up the MA DMF will continue to investigate.
To see the official Falmouth news release check here
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