Seattle Residents Alarmed by Dead Fish in Lake Washington

Apparently it's due to an annual phenomenon

Lake Washington
Lake Washington in April, 2023.
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Travel to Seattle and you’ll find yourself in close proximity to a lake that shares a name with the state where it’s located. Lake Washington abuts the likes of Seattle, Kirkland and Bellevue, Washington — and it’s one of the largest natural lakes in the state. Unfortunately for nearby residents, the lake is also currently home to a disquieting phenomenon: a higher amount of dead fish than anyone had expected at this time of year.

Earlier this month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife posted a message on social media stating that the agency was “aware of reports of yellow perch washing up dead around Lake Washington.” The agency went on to cite a combination of factors for this, including “perch spawning, warming water temperatures, and columnaris, a naturally occurring bacterial disease common in freshwater fish.”

As Amanda Zhou recently wrote at The Seattle Times, the total number of dead perch have continued to alarm local residents. Zhou’s article echoes the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s assessment that this is not an unusual occurrence; instead, it’s an annual phenomenon, albeit an “especially noticeable” example of one.

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As the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Chase Gunnell told Zhou, the number of different factors contributing to the die-off is likely due to the lake’s temperature rising at the same time as the perch began spawning. The relationship between fish die-offs and higher temperatures is one that scientists have noted in the past; in this case, it seems to be a less concerning version of that same phenomenon.

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