Sardines Are Everywhere!

March 10, 2011

This week wraps up a series of fishy events - literally. Tuesday, millions of sardines washed ashore in Redondo Beach, CA, clogging the Redondo Beach Marina. As for Ash Wednesday, celebrants in Spain have an interesting tradition for winding down after Mardi Gras: Entierro de la Sardina or the Burial of the Sardine, a carnival parade which parodies a funeral procession.

While these two events are not in any way related, it seems like comedic timing at its best! The Burial, a mock-funeral culminating in the ceremonial torching of a large faux-sardine, has been an annual Ash Wednesday tradition for centuries, symbolizing the burial of the past and the hope for a society reborn and transformed for the better - sounds pretty good, right?

In Redondo Beach this week, the sardines were much less a source of entertainment and a much greater inconvenience - not to mention the environmental impact. What happened? Well, we're not entirely sure. According to the Los Angeles Times, scientists believe that something (this is the part we don't know) forced the massive school of sardines into the area around King Harbor on Monday night. The school was so dense in the shallow waters that it is believed that the fish simply depleted the available oxygen supply and well, drowned.

With cleanup well underway (so far over 35 tons of dead fish have been collected and it is speculated that another 30 or so tons have already sunk below the surface) the harbor faces another challenge - keep cleaning up or let nature take its course? On the one hand, the fish are clogging the surface of the water, the harbor and marinas and the beaches, but cleanup is incredibly expensive- ew, gross. On the other, this is a natural occurrence and, as a part of the natural cycle, why not let them decay and replenish the natural ecosystem - the circle of life and all that jazz. So, what's the problem?, you may be wondering. Well, if the decaying fish do act as fertilizer, there maybe an unwelcome algae bloom or bacteria explosion - both of which can rapidly deplete the natural oxygen levels in the water and, you guessed it, wipe out any remaining marine life, starting the cycle all over again.

A couple troll their little boat through a mass of dead fish in the King Harbor Marina. By Don Bartletti for the Los Angeles Times

060 Las Burras - Entierro de la Sardina by Mataparda