Measles: mystery of mass fish die-off as no toxic substances found | rivers

Mystery continues to surround the cause of the “catastrophic” mass die-off of fish in the Oder River, after Polish scientists said laboratory tests showed elevated levels of salt but no other toxic substances in central European waterways.

German municipalities have banned bathing and fishing in the Oder after thousands of dead fish were found in the 520-mile (840 km) river that flows from the Czech Republic to the Baltic Sea along the border between Germany and Poland.

Ecologists have expressed concerns that a mass extinction could wreak havoc on the entire Oder ecosystem. “We need to see how the bird population develops and what happens to raccoons and otters,” Karina Dörk, district administrator of the German Uckermark region, told Tagesspiegel newspaper. “It’s a disaster that will stay with us for years.”

According to the Warsaw Ministry of the Interior, over the past few days, 2,000 policemen, 300 firefighters and 200 soldiers have been sent to extract animal corpses from the water.

On Monday morning, Polish and German environment ministers announced a plan to use floating oil barriers to stop floating dead fish from getting further through the Szczecin Lagoon, from where the Oder flows into the Baltic Pomeranian Bay. Samples taken on Saturday suggested that the contaminated waters had not yet reached the western part of the lagoon.

Both the German and Polish governments said they assumed the extinction was caused by the leakage of toxic chemicals from industrial production and Poland has offered a reward of PLN 1 million or €210,000 (£180,000) to anyone who can “help find those responsible for this environmental disaster”.

However, the search for the exact cause was inconclusive, and poor communication between the Polish and German sides was sometimes frustrating. Last week, officials in Germany reported that scientists had found high concentrations of mercury in water samples – a claim dismissed by Polish officials over the weekend.

“The state veterinary institute has completed testing fish for the presence of heavy metals,” said Environment Minister Anna Moscow. Twitter. “He ruled out heavy metals as the cause of the fish’s death.”

The head of the Polish government Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday fired the president of Wody Polskie, a state-owned company responsible for water management in Poland, and the head of the environmental protection inspectorate in response to their investigation into the pollution of the Oder river.

Polish anglers reported an unusually high number of dead fish near Wroclaw on July 26, but German officials said they were only made aware of the problem downstream in the early second week of August.

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