Millions of dead fish littered the shores of the Chesapeake Bay this week, the Maryland Department of the Environment said.
Officials are still investigating the incident but have pointed to lower-than-average water temperatures as a likely cause of death from cold stress.
“Our theory is that it was a very rapid temperature drop,” MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said, according to msnbc.com. “Obviously, these are fish that are susceptible to very cold temperatures.”
An estimated 2 million fish reportedly washed ashore beginning last week in Calvert County and Kent Island. The fish were chiefly juvenile spot fish, which are about 3 to 6 inches in length.
Stoltzfus said the MDE is assessing water quality in the area.
“So far, there don’t appear to be any water quality or pollution issues that have contributed to this fish kill,” Stoltzfus said.
The bay has not seen a fish die-off this significant since 1976, when 15 million dead fish washed ashore, msnbc.com reported Thursday.