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Death on the Lagoon By JUDITH SCHERR

Friday March 03, 2006

If you’ve been out recently for a walk beside the large lagoon at Aquatic Park —especially around the little wharf that extends into the water on the east side— you may have been struck by a very distinct, very bad odor. 

It was likely the stench of dead fish—about nine dead bat rays and a couple of leopard sharks have been reported, according to Mark Liolios, whose organization, the Environmental Greening, Restoration, and Education Team (EGRET), supports the park. 

Waterfront Manager Cliff Marchetti says he isn’t able to know with absolute certainty what’s caused the death of the fish until he’s able to find a dead one and turn it over to the California Department of Fish and Game for analysis.  

But he says he’s quite sure the fish didn’t die as a result of any toxic substance in the lagoons. Rather, he thinks it’s a change in the ponds’ salinity. 

When there is a lot of rain, the salt water level gets very low, he said. The sharks and the rays need a high level of salt water to survive. The striped bass in the lagoons, which are more adaptable, apparently have not suffered, he said.  

The deaths “are kind of a natural occurrence,” he added.