Thousands of fish washed ashore Tuesday along a two mile stretch of beach near the Outer Banks community of Corolla.
Photos of the beach littered with fish were posted on Facebook, noting the NC Division of Marine Fisheries had been called to investigate.
“In some places, the fish are piled thick,” said a post on the Corolla Beach Music Facebook page.
The fish have been identified as Menhaden and Spanish Mackerel and they appeared along mile posts 13 and 17 in an area used for four-wheel drive vehicles, reported TV station WTKR. Samples were taken by Marine Fisheries, which noted there were no marks or sores on the fish, reported the WTKR.
Theories of what caused the mass death were rampant on social media Tuesday, including speculation the suddenly warm temperatures had impacted the oxygen levels in the water.
Menhaden have been known to rush ashore escaping from predators such as blue fish, reported the Virginian-Pilot.
“Fishermen could have broken a net...or maybe they could have over fished and not realized it, and dumped them in ocean,” speculated one Facebook post.
Menhaden are not a popular fish for cooking, but are typically processed into fish oil or fish meal. Commercial fisherman were out later Tuesday, picking up the fish to use as crab bait, reported the Outer Banks Voice. Sea birds were also having a feast on the corpses, witnesses reported on Facebook.
“At this point, the division does not know what caused the fish kill and additional fly-overs tomorrow are pending weather,” Division of Marine Fisheries spokesperson Patricia Smith told the Outer Banks Voice.
It’s reported a similar fish kill happened in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of fish washed up along six miles of beach.