Large quantities of dead sand lance along the shores of White Sands Beach.
7/9/2019: I sent my staff out there yesterday to collect some at the next tide cycle—most were washed away and gobbled up. She was able to scrounge up 4 from this location. We were going to collect and send over to Bruce Wright with APIA. I have also notified our community via Facebook that if spotted again in the same location or another, to notify us (KANA).
Ted Meyers, Fish Pathologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, writes:
Clearly, there is an environmental disturbance, including high water temperatures, that has been going on for several weeks that is causing a considerable variety of marine animal die-offs, from krill, fish, seals and whales. These sand lance are likely part of the issue, and if there is PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) involved, then it would not be surprising to see more dead fish. There are no tests for determining if fish die from high temperature or low dissolved oxygen, but if PSP is suspected, then check with DEC (Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation) as they have that testing capability.
Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA), writes:
Yes, I will be happy to have the sand lance tested and will share the data with you. The link between PSP-contaminated sand lance and dead and sickened larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals is strong, so sand lance are vital for supporting that research. Keep the sand lance samples in the freezer until we can arrange for shipment to me.
Stephanie Mason writes:
Thank you everyone! Frozen sand lance are headed to Bruce this Thursday. Bruce, we look forward to seeing results.
Bruce Wright writes:
10/9/2019: The two Pillar Creek, Kodiak sand lance samples were non-detect for PSP. During a warm spell in Chignik Bay, I collected sand lance that were emerging from the sand and dying and/or being eaten by gulls. They also tested negative for PSP.
Comments from LEO Editors:
It was important to test these sand lance for PSP because lance feed on small crustaceans called copepods, which feed on the algea that can produce PSP and may become toxic. That toxin is transferred to the sand lance as it feeds on the copepods. Other animals such as marine mammals, crab, and sea birds have also become toxic, or have died, from eating dead sand lance. Source: USDA Sand Lance: A Review of Biology and Predator Relations and Annotated Bibliography.
In June of 2019, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health and Social Services released a joint statemet notifying the public of high levels of PSP in shellfish tested in Southeast, Southcentral, Kodiak Island, and the Aleutian Chain. Erica Lujan
In early July, other communities reported observing dead unspawned salmon. Warm weather, and warm river water, contributed to a low oxygen envuroinment that led to the fish deaths. Here is a map of the salmon mortalities reported to LEO.