The dead sardines contained neurotoxin demoic acid in their stomachs. (Photo: YouTube/readda)
Neurotoxin kills 175 tonnes of sardines off Southern California
Thursday, March 17, 2011, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
A professor of biology from the University of Southern California (USC) this week informed the Redondo Beach City Council that he and his research team will oversee the composting of dead sardines containing a toxin to ensure its elimination.
USC professor of biological sciences Dave Caron, has been regularly monitoring water quality at the King Harbor Marina, from which the sardines were hauled, since 2005.
He told city officials that he and his team detected the neurotoxin demoic acid in the bellies of the dead sardines, but he does not expect the neurotoxin to survive the composting process.
“[The toxin] is naturally degraded,” Caron said, reports Patch.com. “We just have no experience in how fast it would disappear when it’s in a composting process. But given the fact that heat is involved and bacterial decomposition it’s likely to be pretty effective.”
The large school of sardines weighing 175 tonnes suffocated from a lack of oxygen last week, Caron’s water testing determined, and the neurotoxin may have caused their disorientation, which would explain why they crowded around the marina.
“Whatever brought the fish into that area, there were simply too many of them in that location to handle the amount of dissolved oxygen that was in there,” he explained.
Since discovering the toxin in the sardines, Caron and his team found a “significant toxic bloom” in the waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, as the fish probably fed from the algal bloom in the coastal waters.
Athens Services, the city’s new waste collection service, will compost the sardines. The company’s Gary Clifford even hopes to bring some of the finished fish fertilizer back to the community.
“It’s our hope that within a few months we can come back and have a great event in the community when we bring the compost back as some kind of blend that your city can use to grow things in,” he said.
Clifford said American Organics, where his company will compost the sardines, is a certified organic composting plant that applies a pathogen reduction process that will eradicate the neurotoxin.
Caron said his team will be monitoring the situation.
By Natalia Real