Massive fish kill in Texas creates waves of dead fish, washing shredded skeletons ashore

Texas wildlife officials say the fish kill was caused by low dissolved oxygen when the water warmed above 70 degrees, depleting oxygen for menhaden fish.

QUINTANA, Texas – Waves carrying thousands of dead fish for miles bombarded Texas shores over the weekend, closing beaches to visitors.

According to Quintana Beach County Park, the fish kill started on Friday when dead fish started washing up by the thousands. Fish continued to wash up on Bryan Beach and Surfside Beach. Park officials said the waves of dead fish went on for about 6 miles, and boaters reported seeing them about 10 miles offshore.

Most of the dead fish are Menhaden, with a few other species in the fish kill.

Texas Parks and Wildlife confirmed the cause of the massive fish kill was because of low dissolved oxygen. This happens when the water in the Gulf of Mexico warms above 70 degrees, becoming harder for fish to find oxygen to breathe. Cooler water contains more oxygen than warm water.

"Fish kills like this are common in the summer when temperatures increase. If there isn't enough oxygen in the water, fish can't ‘breathe.’ Low dissolved oxygen in many cases is a natural occurrence," Texas Parks & Wildlife Kills and Spills Team said in a statement. 

Park officials said the fish kill was unrelated to the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone,"  which is created by runoff pollution and can also drop oxygen levels and make it hard for sea life to exist.

Global ocean temperatures are warmer as the El Niño climate pattern is officially underway.


The fish kill closed some Texas beaches to the public, and people were told to avoid the area while the cleanup was underway.

Park crews raked up thousands of fish over the weekend.

According to Quintana Beach officials, the last fish washed in on Sunday. Photos posted by beach officials show that there wasn't much left of their bodies by the time the fish washed up.

"The most recent are deteriorated to the point of being shredded skeletons," officials wrote on Facebook.

The Quintana public beach reopened, but beach officials said it wouldn't hurt to give it a few more days to let high tides bury the fish in the sand.