January 3, 2017 3:21 pm
Updated: January 3, 2017 4:23 pm

Experts say warming water temperatures possible cause of major Nova Scotia fish kill

There are still more questions than answers about what could possibly be behind a large scale fish kill in Nova Scotia. Herring, lobster, starfish and even a whale have been found in Digby, N.S., but so far, there's no definitive reason why. Global's Natasha Pace reports.

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So far, officials have not been able to determine what’s behind a large fish kill in Nova Scotia, but some experts are speculating warming waters could be the cause.

Thousands of dead herring, along with lobster, clams, starfish and a humpback whale have washed up on beaches in the Digby, N.S. area over the past few weeks.

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READ MORE: Schools of dead herring continue to wash up on Nova Scotia beaches

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) said last week it’s monitoring areas across southwest Nova Scotia for evidence of new incidents, meanwhile it doesn’t have any answers to what caused the fish to wash up dead — something that’s catching the attention of other parties.

“Right now, there’s no smoking gun but something has happened,” said Boris Worm, a scientist who specializes in marine ecosystems.

His theory about what may have happened is attributed to “a signal of the changing environment.”

“There is some evidence, some satellite pictures, that at the time that these die-offs started in November, there was an unusual plankton bloom in the area, probably linked to warming waters,” Worm said.

WATCH: Nova Scotia fishermen estimate millions have fish have died along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in the last few months

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is also unsure of the cause for thousands of marine creatures to die, but believes it could have something to do with the rapidly changing temperature in the Gulf of Maine.

Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator with the EAC, says they’re also concerned about the actual number of fish that have died.

“There’s fish washing up on the beach but we have no idea what percentage that is of the entire fish that may have died,” said Fuller.

“It’s just like plastic, you get some of the plastic washing up on the beach but you don’t know how much is in the ocean. I would say the same thing — we don’t know what the total die-off has been.”

It remains unclear at this time if a dead whale found in the same area is connected.

“It’s hard to know if they’re all related, Fuller said. “I think this is something that, DFO has had a lot of cuts to science and budget over the last decade and they’re just sort of starting to get up to speed on this, so we’re hoping they will be taking a closer look at the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and whether or not all of these things are linked.”

READ MORE: Whale washes up on Nova Scotia beach near area where other species found dead

DFO says there are few new wash-ups of dead fish being identified, but not to the extent previously reported.

Officials say tests done on the dead herring came back negative for viruses. More information on the fish kill is expected in the coming days.

“We really hope DFO will take this seriously and change, whether it be quotas, or how many fish are caught or where they’re being caught, in the next year particularly, so it gives that stock a chance to rebuild,” Fuller said.

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