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    Massive fish kill in Atlantic

    By Jeff Montgomery

    Evidence of a massive ocean fish kill washed ashore at Delaware and Maryland resorts late Tuesday as state officials hoped a gathering storm would push the "slick" of dead fish far out to sea.

    Environmental agencies estimated as many as a million adult Atlantic croaker carcasses littered the ocean surface off Ocean City, Md., and southernmost Delaware. Thousands already had been picked up off local beaches by evening.

    One researcher said frigid water may have doomed the fish. Huge schools of the popular sport and commercial fish reportedly departed the Chesapeake Bay three weeks earlier than usual this year, then slammed into deeper offshore waters where temperatures had fallen to 40 degrees.

    "This is most unusual. Never in my career have we experienced a kill of adult croaker in the summer," said Roy W. Miller, fisheries section administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, who has been with the agency for nearly 30 years. Miller said a Coast Guard helicopter flyover late Monday reported "lots of fish" in the water, close enough to threaten beaches if the wind pushes them landward.

    Miller said the masses of rotting fish in the water sent a stench onto local beaches. Officials said they hoped winds from Hurricane Alex would push the dead fish away from shore as the storm passes during the next few days, although tropical winds also could move the fish landward.