Spring usually leads into summer, but this year, it seems to be setting us up for a season of pure apocalypse. Consider the (numerous) signs: 10 million acres and counting have burned in Canada, putting the country on track for its worst wildfire season ever. The ensuing smog turned swaths of sky over the East Coast an ominous shade of Blade Runner orange last week, and experts warned that the putrid sargassum piling up on Florida’s beaches might be harboring flesh-eating bacteria, in addition to creating a heinous stench. Meanwhile, in Texas, state officials are scrambling to remove the tens of thousands of dead fish that washed up along the Gulf Coast over the weekend. Doomsday, anyone?
Per Axios, cleanup efforts are underway at Quintana Beach in Brazoria County, Texas, where barrelfuls of fish corpses — the majority of them Gulf menhaden, which, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, constitute the largest fishery yield in the Gulf of Mexico — began appearing onshore Friday as temperatures in the area reached 92 degrees. Investigators determined “low dissolved oxygen” as the cause of the mass die-off, noting that fish kills are relatively common in hotter summer months as schools of fish get trapped in shallow waters and lose oxygen as a result. Common as it is, experts suggest that higher water temperatures buoyed by global warming can exacerbate the trend and disrupt local ecosystems.
As crews cleared and buried the carcasses before they began to decay in the heat, Quintana Beach County Park took to Facebook to advise beachgoers against swimming, citing high bacterial levels, “not to mention sharp fins on the fish” they’d have to step over to get to the water. Also important: “It doesn’t take long for them to sit there in 90-degree heat to really rack up an unpleasant smell,” the Brazoria County Parks Department director told the New York Times. RIP to the many, many Gulf menhaden, but I, for one, am frightened to see what biblical plague will befall us next — talk about a time to lie on the beach and rot.