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Thousands of dead carp foul up Lake Mohave beaches

Fish pose a threat to travelers’ sense of smell, but not their health, park officials say


Arizona Game and Fish

Thousands of dead carp are washing up along the shores of Lake Mohave.

Updated Friday, May 22, 2009 | 4:37 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Thousands of dead carp are washing up along the shores of Lake Mohave.

Lake Mohave

There's something fishy at Lake Mohave.

Park Service officials are warning Memorial Day travelers that thousands of dead carp are washing up on the shores of the lake and a funky odor will be afoot along the beaches as the fish decompose.

Lake Mohave is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Colorado River runs through Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, which is south of the Hoover Dam.

The Park Service said no concentrations of the dead fish have appeared at Lake Mead.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area spokesman Andrew Munoz said the there aren't health concerns for humans from the dead fish. Specimens have been sent away for testing, but results won't be available until next week, he said.

Wildlife officials suspect a carp-specific virus or disease is to blame because no other species of dead fish have washed up on shore, he said.

He advised visitors avoid high concentrations of dead fish and not to handle the carcasses because rotting flesh could pose a health threat.

As for the smell, there's not much that can be done, he said.

"In areas of high concentration of the dead fish, there will be an ... unwelcoming smell," he said. "The smell is uncontrollable and it's not feasible for us to start removing fish from the beach."

The National Parks system's policy is to "keep wild things wild" and to allow the natural process to take effect, so no cleanup is planned unless the fish are found to present a danger, Munoz said.

Boaters and those participating in recreation away from the shoreline shouldn't be affected by the odorous carp, he said.

Last year, Lake Mead saw a carp die-off in the Overton Beach area likely because of low oxygen levels, he said.

The National Park Service says the die-off has had a minimal effect on marinas and tours, and that the water is safe for swimming.

By Friday, the odor was no longer detectable in some areas, the Park Service said.

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