It could take a week to clean up the dead sardines in a Redondo Beach marina.
Three days after the die-off, fish rotting on the floor of the shallow King Harbor marina were bloating and bobbing up Thursday as volunteers and city workers continued to clean up.
"They're coming to the surface, which is a virtue and a vice," police Sgt. Phil Keenan said. "The virtue is we can get them easier. The vice is they smell.''
A stench was in the air from the carpet of silvery corpses littering the marina and washing against the back of the enclosure.
Fifty tons of fish have been collected but at least another 30 tons are believed to remain on the marina floor, Mayor Mike Gin said.
Sunny, hot weather made finishing the cleanup a priority before the smell becomes any worse and the decomposing fish corpses feed bacteria that could reduce oxygen levels in the marina water and kill other sea life, officials said.
The enormous school of sardines apparently suffocated in the harbor, possibly while seeking shelter from a predator or simply becoming lost near a breakwater late Monday. Instead of leaving, the fish crowded toward the back and used all the oxygen in the water, marine experts have said.
California Department of Fish and Game officials have estimated that at least a million fish died.