‘Sild’ mysteriously beached up north

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UPDATED: Thousands of dead herring, known as sild in Norwegian, covered a beach in northern Norway over the New Year’s weekend and no one is sure how or why they landed there to die. One senior marine researcher said he’s never seen anything like it, and then the dead fish disappeared as mysteriously as they came.

Thousands of small fish like this have covered a beach in northern Norway. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The small silvery fish, each weighing between 100 and 200 grams, were found on the beach at Kvænnes in Nordreisa, Troms County, on New Year’s Eve. Since then, many local residents have trekked to the beach to see the mysterious phenomenon.

Among them was Jan-Petter Jørgensen, who said that temperatures of minus-15C removed the immediate threat of an enormous stink. “But over time, the smell will become quite intense,” Jørgensen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

See Jørgensen’s photos on NRK’s website here (external link, in Norwegian).

As it turned out, his fears were unfounded. On Tuesday nearly all the beached fish had disappeared, probably by tides and winds, and the local mayor speculated that the dead fish will be spread at sea and sink.

Jørgensen suspects the huge stream of herring was either chased ashore by something that scared them, caught by the tides, or a combination of the two. Jens Christian Holst of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway (Havforskningsinstituttet) agreed, but said he’d never seen such large amounts of “stranded sild” as in the photos taken by Jørgensen.

He said “all theories are exciting” but added that beached fish usually are a result of being pressured towards land by a predator. “I’ve seen brisling hunted down by mackerel,” Holst told NRK. “In this area, we know there is a lot of sei (pollack) that graze on sild.”

He added that there’s often a lot of herring along the coast in winter months, and they can enter the fjords in the northern areas of Nordland and Troms counties.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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