Sudden death of thousands of fish in Lake Cajititlan in Mexico

Hundreds of thousands of fish have been found dead in a lake in central Mexico and arguments are raging about who or what is to blame

More than fifty tonnes of dead popocha chub fish have already been removed from the Lake Cajititlan but no one can agree on why so many have died.

The local authorities blame the deaths simply on the natural cycle, but fishermen blame pollution.  

Manuel Guzman Arroyo, director of the University of Guadalajara’s Fresh Water Institute, said the lake is very shallow, and that a strong wind or other causes could have stirred up sediment and deprived the fish of oxygen.

"The lake has problems because too much water is being drawn off, and its level is very low," said Guzman Arroyo. The lake is surrounded by up-scale housing developments and its waters are used for irrigation and recreation, but he said pollution probably wasn’t a big problem.

There have been complaints that a nearby tequila distillery is storing waste in containers that drain into channels that feed into the lake.

Victor Hugo Ornelas, a reporter from the Tlajomulco-based newspaper La Verdad, said it also appeared that fertilisers washed into the lake from surrounding cornfields during the rainy season could be a significant factor. The fertilisers appear to fuel the growth of algae near the surface, where the popoche chub swim.

"It is obvious that there are many sources of pollution around the lake," Ornelas said. "Fertiliser runoff in a particularly heavy rainy season could be the straw that is breaking the camel's back."

The state authorities have issued an environmental alert for the lagoon, but said human health was not endangered.

The lake is 9km (5.6 miles) long and 2km wide and is located north of the much bigger Lake Chapala, about 500km west of Mexico City.
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