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Polish firefighters have recovered 100 tonnes of dead fish from the Oder river, which runs through Germany and Poland, heightening fears of an environmental disaster with no known cause.
“We’d never had an operation of this scope on a river before,” the national firefighter press office’s Monika Nowakowska-Drynda said on Tuesday.
She confirmed that since Friday, approximately 100 tonnes (220,500lb) of dead fish had been recovered. More than 500 firefighters in Poland have recovered dead fish using dams, boats, quad bikes, and even a drone.
Following the discovery of thousands of dead fish in the Oder, German municipalities prohibited bathing and fishing in the river. After thousands of dead fish were discovered floating in the Oder, which runs from the Czech Republic to the Baltic Sea along the border between Germany and Poland, German municipalities banned bathing and fishing in the river.
Conservationists are concerned that the mass die-off will devastate the Oder’s entire ecosystem. “We have to wait and see how the bird population develops and what happens to the racoons and otters,” Karina Dörk, a district administrator in Germany’s Uckermark region, told Tagesspiegel. “It’s a disaster that will haunt us for years.”
The cause of death is still unknown, and Poland has offered a reward of 1m złoty or €210,000 (£180,000) for anyone who can “help find those responsible for this environmental disaster”.
But climate and environment minister Anna Moskwa said on Tuesday that “none of the samples tested so far has shown the presence of toxic substances”. Polish scientists said laboratory tests found only elevated salt levels.
She said the government was also looking into possible natural causes and in particular higher concentrations of pollutants and salinity as a result of lower water levels and high temperatures.