Canadian officials trying to determine what killed thousands of fish in Nova Scotia

Scientists investigating the deaths of thousands of marine creatures that have washed up on beaches of Nova Scotia on the eastern side of the Gulf of Maine have not determined what may have caused the calamity, according to Canadian media reports.

In Maine, there have been no recent reports of similar fish mortality events, a spokesman with Maine Department of Marine Resources said Wednesday.

Last week, reports surfaced of masses of dead herring and the corpses of other marine species such as lobster, starfish, clams and others — even a humpback whale — appearing along the shoreline of St. Mary’s Bay at the western tip of Nova Scotia, roughly 50 miles away from the coast of Washington County in Maine. This followed other reports in late November and early December of dead herring washing ashore in the bay and near Digby, N.S. to the east, according to the CBC.

On Tuesday, Canadian media outlets reported that Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been testing the dead fish for possible causes, but have come up empty.

“The viral tests, the long-term ones we were waiting for, all of them came back negative,” David Jennings, spokesman for DFO in Halifax, told the CBC.

Other possible causes such as weather conditions or human activities are being considered, but there’s been no evidence that points to a particular culprit. Officials also have said that the causes of death for some of the creatures, such as the whale, may be different from some of the others.

There also have been media reports of thousands of dead fish washing up last month on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean along the shore in Cornwall, England. Aside from the timing, there has been no connection made between the fish die-offs in Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom.

Jeff Nichols, DMR spokesman, said Wednesday that department staff have “not seen any indication or received reports of similar events” in Maine but are in contact with colleagues in Canada to stay abreast of the situation.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.