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Thousands of Dead Fish Cast Pall on Town

August 10, 1990 GMT

HARPSWELL, Maine (AP) _ The stench of thousands of rotting fish has closed businesses, forced residents to shut their windows during the summer heat and fouled Quahog Bay’s shoreline, ruining local fishermen.

″The eels are even dead, and they’re hard to kill,″ said Linda Webber, part owner of Webber and Sons Lobster Co.

The dead pogies can be seen floating in clumps throughout the cove, and are caked onto rocks along the shore. The loss of oxygen resulting from the rotting fish is suffocating thousands of lobsters, crabs, snails and other sea life.

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Webber said Wednesday her company has lost about $10,000 worth of lobsters because of the pogies, an oily fish also known as menhaden that is caught for use as lobster bait, fertilizer and cat food.

″It’s been like this for almost a month, but the past few days have been unbearable,″ said Marianne Lavine, a summer visitor of 20 years to this town of 2,500 about 15 miles north of Portland.

″We’ve had the doors and windows closed for three days now,″ she said. ″It irritates your throat and nose. It’s disgusting.″

The smell is so bad that a bed-and-breakfast on the bay close, and the owner said he and his wife wouldn’t reopen until the odor is gone.

Robert Waddle, owner of Quahog Lobster Inc., the bay’s other lobster dealer, said he also has lost at least $10,000. He cannot keep his lobsters in holding pens because there is not enough oxygen in the water.

″The overall loss is tremendous. Not just my loss, but everyone’s loss because everything in the bay’s been killed,″ Waddle said.

The pogies died after vast schools of the fish were chased into the bay by feeding bluefish about a month ago.

State officials said they will allow the ecological imbalance to correct itself naturally.