Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for



Date of this Version

December 1962


Published by U. S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE, Public Health Service.


This publication is the third annual report of fish kills caused by pollution occurring in the United States. The reporting of pollution-caused fish kills was begun by the Public Health Service in the Spring of 1960 in an effort to secure additional information on the effects of pollution in the Nation's waters, to elicit the cooperation and assistance of conservation groups in the States to help determine causes of fish kills and assist in their abatement, and to place responsibility for fish kills where it belonged.

The Surgeon General asked all State conservation and fish and game agencies to assist him by reporting instances of fish kills attributable to pollutants entering the streams or lakes of the Nation. A self-addressed postcard reporting form was devised in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the various independent conservation organizations. The form, shown in this publication as figure 1, was furnished to the State agencies to be completed as occasions arose and mailed to the Public Health Service. Summary totals and statistical evaluations and conclusions are based upon the information contained in these reporting forms.

The fish kill activity has just completed its third year of operation. As it matures and as the reporting authorities in the States become accustomed to furnishing more complete information about each kill, the resulting publications will undoubtedly become more meaningful, and serve as a more useful tool in helping to identify and abate pollution.

In 1962, a semi-annual report was published listing reported fish kills for the period January-June, 1962. This present report includes all fish kills in 1962 which were reported by the various State agencies. Even though the resulting totals of fish killed are large, they probably represent only a fraction of fish actually killed throughout the United States by man-made pollution.

In an effort to make the reporting of these fish kills more accurate and hence the published summaries more useful and effective, it was found desirable to revise portions of the postcard reporting form. Beginning in January 1963, the revised form was put into use throughout the States and future summaries will indicate more accurately the source of pollution believed to have killed the fish. Most pollution-caused fish kills are attributable to operational activities. The revised reporting form on which next year's publication will be based indicates four principal operations causing the majority of fish kills: agricultural, industrial, municipal, and transportation operations, with appropriate subheadings. When classified in this manner, the responsibility for causing fish kills can be more accurately defined.

As the reporting forms are received from the States, copies are furnished to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Reports were excluded from the listing if it was apparent that the kill was not related to pollution. Lack of sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water from natural biological activity will kill fish, but is not necessarily related to man-made pollution. Some reports indicated kills had occurred too far in the past to determine the cause or extent. Other reports stated that pollution occurred but no fish were killed, and some referred to shellfish which died of causes not related to pollution. Of the total reports received, however, only a small number are excluded from the summary.

Acceptable reports are coded for machine punch card tabulation so that various statistical tables can be obtained. The punch card method permits the insertion of late reports in the sequence in which they occurred.