Extreme heat proving fatal for fish in Brussels Canal

Extreme heat proving fatal for fish in Brussels Canal
Dead fish at the surface of the Brussels Canal. Credit: The Brussels times / Piotrek Skrodzki

The Brussels Canal has been looking strange for passers-by over the past week, as groups of dead fish are floating at the canal’s surface.

The Brussels Times asked experts what was the cause behind the deadly fate of the fish. While analyses are still ongoing, it appears that the warm weather hasn’t been good news for everyone, while sewage flows into the canal have also played a role.

‘Good’ weather?

Preliminary findings have not detected any water pollution. Instead, the presence of fish floating on the surface would rather be due to a combination of recent weather conditions.

The main cause of the deaths seems to be a lack of oxygen in the water, caused by the hot weather and drought in the last few weeks.

The higher the temperature, the lower the oxygen concentration, explains Sylvain Godfried from port.brussels.

Sewage spillage

In addition, the heavy rains of the last few days have resulted in sewage overflows. Organic matter that has ended up in the channel also causes oxygen levels to drop, says Godfried.

Pieter Elsen from Canal It Up, an NGO aiming to keep the canal clean, agrees. “The lack of oxygen comes from the good weather we’ve had lately, but even more from the spillage of dripping water last Thursday (19 May).”

“The addition of organic matter causes the level of oxygen to drop, which causes the fish to choke. When we look at the graphs of the oxygen level in the Senne river we see the same thing - a huge drop in oxygen after the discharge of the sewage water.”

Elsen says this is due to negligence and a lack of investment to resolve the problem of sewer overflows in recent years. “The dead fish problem is a problem that recurs every few months. Until the problem of sewer overflows is solved, we will see dead fish in the canal.”

Meanwhile, the issue is being taken care of by port.brussels. “Of course, our cleaner boats have been in action since Friday to clean the canal wherever necessary,” Godfried said.

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