2,000+ Striped Bass Wash Ashore in Nova Scotia

On January 3rd, a duck hunter in Canada discovered large numbers of dead stripers washing onto the beach.

Nova Scotia, Canada is the close to the northern limit of the striped bass range. On January 3, about 150 miles from Port Morien, Nova Scotia, locals reported a massive fish kill consisting entirely of striped bass. This is the first large-scale die off reported in this region, and officials say it is likely due to significant fluctuation in temperature.

Nova Scotia has a population of striped bass that winter-over, however, residential bass populations of such magnitude had never been recorded. The Port Morien Wildlife Association (PMWA) estimated, conservatively that 2,000-plus striped bass were found washed up along shore of an estuary.

Stripers in Cape Breton 

According to reports, an estimated 90-percent of fish discovered on the stretch of beach in Dingwall, were “schoolie” striped bass from 16 to 24 inches in length. Though fish as large as 41 inches and as small as 6 inches were found.  These fish are standard size for the typical holdover populations seen in Cape Breton.

The stripers ranged in size from 6 inches to 41 inches, with most between 14 and 24 inches.

Ray Briand of Port Morien Wildlife Association, made the discovery while duck hunting when he noticed birds working an area of beach nearby. Ray has lived and fished in the area for most of his life, and had never seen fish wash up here until this occasion. In a video posted to the internet by his team member Jeff McNeil, the rocky shoreline is visibly littered with dead striped bass. Ray and Jeff both reported the fish looking otherwise healthy, with no signs of physical distress or viral/ bacterial infections such as vibrosis.

Scientists and marine biologists rushed to the site, in order to protect the shoreline for further study.  There was immediate concern that the combined impending high tide and lingering waterfowl would deplete much of the evidence. The local community reacted rapidly, and Nova Scotia’s Striped Bass Association (SBA) were quick on the scene to collect samples of DNA. Some of these samples are for genetic tracing purposes, others are for marine pathologists aquatic toxicologists.

The genetic test results will help officials conclude whether or not these fish were holdover fish, or one large body of migratory fish that decided to stick around. From there, further research will be done accordingly; if the fish are migratory, the study will fall into further researching the origins of these fish and why they remained in Nova Scotia rather than migrating. However, if the fish belong to resident bass populations, the study will hone it’s focus on how these local fish died off in such substantial numbers.

Toxicology tests will provide insight into water quality, chemicals, pollutants and nutrients that may have impacted the massive loss of life. Initially, many believed that these fish died in the ocean and the tide brought them into the estuary, but that is highly unlikely. According to Jeff McNeil the waters in this region of Nova Scotia tend to be pristine, leaving little to no chance at a pollutant causing this kill.

Speculation from the Port Morien Wildlife Association, is that significantly fluctuating temperatures and recent heavy rains led to drastic changes in water temperature and pressure. Combined factors of fluctuating water temperatures in a small area of densely populated brackish water could certainly be what led to the demise of this school of fish. The environmental conditions were likely too much to handle for the stripers. Oxygen depletion and excess waste are also concerns when a big school stages up in such a tight space. Still, it’s somewhat surprising that striped bass were the only species affected.

Questions Still Remain

Still unknown: was this the entire body of fish? Did some fish live on, and are they healthy? Are the fish that died resident holdover bass? If not, what brought these fish here to begin with?

Ray Briand investigated in the field on behalf of the Port Morien Wildlife Association; of the samples he took for research, an estimated 30 to 40-percent were spawning females.

For now, this die off seems to be completely contained and specific to one estuary.


43 on “2,000+ Striped Bass Wash Ashore in Nova Scotia

  1. AJ

    Maybe they were migrating North instead of South and died of extreme temperatures?

  2. Cape Cod Bob

    Too bad this wasn’t Outer Cape Cod and too bad they weren’t Seals…

  3. John

    Any commercial netting boats in the area during the time estimated? Seems suspicious

  4. Rob

    This is disconcerting. i would love to see OTW follow this story and report back on the findings from toxicology reports and what the cause of this kill are determined to be?

    1. Jimmy Fee

      We’ll continue to update the story as we hear more. Most likely, it was an unfortunate combination of a severe cold snap during the extreme low tides brought on by Sunday’s “King Tides” that cold shocked the bass.

  5. gary

    Might want to investigate if this could be trawler bycatch that were tossed back if they were not legally catchable. Were any operating in the area when this event occurred?

  6. John Prevett

    That is terrible, I hope OTW keeps everyone informed of any answers how this happened.

  7. Joe Horstmann

    What is a marine proctologist? Never heard of that one! Did you mean to say marine pathologist?

  8. Robert Maietta

    “Marine Proctologists”?? Now that’s a new one .

  9. Bob markus

    Could these fish have been netted by accident that suffocated them then released

  10. Capt Quint

    How come no comments or speculation regarding the king tides on Jan3rd? Highest of the year nearly. Seems way too coincidental. .

  11. chris

    lrapid temp drops in the Pamlico sound in NC result in big fish kills, seems like something along those lines but just speculation – sucks but didn’t realize there would be schoolies that far north this time of year. Is there a warm water discharge in the area?

    1. pete p.

      Good thought. Saw this before around power plant warmer water discharges.

  12. leo Mazerall

    Canada had a large fish kill a couple of years ago that involved everything from starfish to fin fish. Enviromental issues in Canada are common. and probably man made. Not good

  13. Chris

    What if at super high tide the strippers chased bait fish into the shore line, at the same time temps dropped hard, slowing the fish, then with the extreme time the tide went out rapidly. Even a huge ship wave could have push them in. They die trapped on beach, next high tide washes them out. It’s the same thing we see from other species of fish, where they drive to shore and beach themselves.

  14. Capt. Mike

    The Stripers simply feed when and where they can find food. Atlantic Ocean continues to warm. Soon enough they will arrive in the coastal waters of Iceland and beyond until they push into Northern waters of Europe. Stripers For Ever.

    1. Cassiusking

      Water temp in nj is 41 deg so no Global
      Warming down here

  15. Jake

    Please keep this new item current in your site. The ramifications of this die off is that there will be a significant loss of eggs/spawn correct ? That translates to less fish = the overarching problem for saltwater fishermen/women. My fear is some fishing entity made a mistake and sponsors/controls the investigation process. The bottom line is the loss will hurt future fishing. I am just a sport fisherman but the loss affects us all.

  16. R.J.

    Very glad that OTW will try to keep up on this event. Hate it when we’ve had fish kills in this area and all that’s reported is the event and the speculation off the cause (lack of oxygen, spraying for mosquito control, parasites, virus, pollution and other theories) without the actual cause being reported.

  17. Salmo Salar

    These are part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence population–not Hudson or Chesapeake fish. They spawn in Canadien rivers and have actually had adverse effects on some Atlantic salmon spawning rivers, as the stripers eat the young spawn of the salmon. Their population is exploding. These were cold shocked fish. Cold shock fish kills are not unusual or unnatural. And little schoolie size fish are considered fair game for rod and reelers up there, as they are so prolific.

    1. Ron

      Pretty much all wrong, except for a couple of points. Yes Dingwall would be Gulf of St Lawrence pop, and yes it was probably cold water shock that killed this group.
      The wrong stuff… the stripers in that area breed only in the Miramichi River and actually only in a relatively short section of it. Its is a distinct population from the ones that spawn in the Shubie river. They are growing, but definitely not exploding in pop, and since they only spawn in one river, DFO has have a good idea of population based on counts of breeding females in that river. Small schoolie size fish are not fair game, and its a pretty tightly regulated fishery. Three fish per person per day, they have to be between 50-65 cm, and they have to angled with a barbless hook. The reason for nothing over 65 cm and barbless hook is because they want the bigger spawners to survive to breed. Shubie river striper rules are different, but also strict. Must be over 65 cm, only 1 fish per person per day, but you can use a barbed hook.
      As far as impact on salmon goes, there are only two striper breeding rivers in Atlantic Canada, the Shubie and Miramichi rivers. Since those are the only two rivers with breeding populations then if stripers were eating all the young salmon smolts, then you would expect those rivers to be doing worse then other rivers that don’t have stripers populations breeding in them. That’s not the case though. The salmon populations are doing the same thing all over Eastern Canada, regardless of the presence or absence of stripers breeding in the rivers.

  18. John Neil Costa

    Wow! I haven’t a fish kill of that size in many decades in which there was a large gill net by catch kill and the netter discarded them rather be fined for having stripers on board. I hope they find the cause. What a waste.

  19. Frank Lapointe

    Was there any other species of fish that died, seems odd that it was only stripers

  20. Nick

    Maybe it was a small asteroid that fell from the sky and create a sonic boom and kill the stripers?

  21. GunnerMcSad

    we should all wait for the toxicology reports and necropsy.
    before we point fingers.
    Then blame the Chinese

  22. Gunner McShad

    Let’s wait for the toxicology and necropsy reports, then take action.

  23. DJB

    A marine proctologist is a sub surgical specialist who focuses on conditions such as whale hemhoroids, loose fish anal sphincters, etc.

  24. peter okeefe

    as our elected officials collect bucks from foreign ships we the fisherman americanus will be fined more and more…..

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