Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Short Sharp Science

Herring galore as tonnes of fish wash up on beach

Andrew Purcell, online producer
(Image: Reuters/Jan-Petter Jorgensen/Scanpix)

It was like Whisky Galore - except with fish. Locals taking a stroll at Kvennes beach in northern Norway were in for a surprise as they discovered a carpet of over 20 tonnes of dead fish covering the shoreline.
Fortunately, the low winter temperatures in the Nordesia region of Norway mean that the smell isn't too unbearable, according to dog-walker Jan-Petter Jorgensen, who took this photo.

Jens Christian Holst of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is hoping to conduct tests on the fish to ascertain if they died as a result of disease. Other possibilities include being driven into shallow waters by predators, washed ashore during a storm, or even affected by freshwater flowing into the bay from a nearby river. "I have never seen such large amounts of stranded herring," said Holst.
Almost inevitably, there are those who are viewing this event as a portent of doom, particularly given its coincidence with the start of the year 2012 - a year in which one cycle of the Mayan calendar is due to come to an end and which has often been associated with the end of the world.

The death of the herrings follows reports that hundreds of birds plummeted from the sky in Arkansas. Those linking the events to the apocalypse overlook the fact that the birds were killed by fireworks placed at their roosting site, and indeed that a similar thing happened last year. 

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