PORT HUENEME, Calif. - Crews on Tuesday and Wednesday were cleaning up thousands of dead fish found in a drainage canal.
The fish were first discovered on Monday in the Ventura County Watershed Protection District Drain off J Street and Hueneme Road near the border of Oxnard and Port Hueneme.
On Tuesday, a biologist was at the scene evaluating the dead fish and taking samples from the water. Pam Lindsey an ecologist with the watershed protection district said it is still unclear how the fish died, but at this point they believe a lightning strike is to blame. Lindsey said a power pole adjacent to the channel was struck by lightning and at this point a lightning strike is the most plausible cause for the death of the thousands of fish.
The biologist at the scene said the most alarming discovery is the dead fish in the canal consist of at least nine different species including fresh water and saltwater fish.
County crews first arrived at the drainage canal on Tuesday morning to rescue the fish that were still alive and clean up the dead fish. The county was working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to find out what happened.
While it is still unclear where the fish came from, several local residents believe it might have something to do with the past weekend storm. Residents who discovered the fish told NewsChannel 3 they believe that water levels rose during the weekend storms and then dropped suddenly, sending the fish from the Ormond Beach Lagoon to the drain and then stranding them there.
"We had lots of rain which is very welcoming, but hopefully this isn't the result of all the rain and the fish coming up this way thinking it was a channel," said Cheryl Hafstrom of Port Hueneme.
"Oh the smell is bad. It is rotten fish," said Christina Lorenzona of Port Hueneme
The smell of the dead fish is noticeable for a good half-mile around the drain. While the area is fenced off, kids were still sneaking around the fence on Tuesday to check out the dead fish against the wishes of county authorities.
A biologist at the scene said two endangered tidewater goby were found in the drain, but thankfully they were still alive and able to be rescued.
The cleanup is expected to be completed by Wednesday.
A necropsy is being performed on some of the fish to confirm the lightning strike theory.