Germany and Poland are looking for the cause of mass fish deaths in the Oder

Germany and Poland are looking for the cause of mass fish deaths in the Oder

  • Tons of dead fish collected in a river on the Polish-German border
  • The authorities are working to find the cause
  • Polish authorities criticized for slow response
  • Polish PM says Or ‘may take years’ to return to normal

BERLIN/WARSAU, Aug. 12 (Portal) – Polish and German authorities are working “at full speed” to determine the cause of a mass die-off of fish in the Oder, German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said on Friday, warning of an environmental catastrophe.

Tons of dead fish have been found in the Oder River, which flows through Germany and Poland, since the end of July. Both sides have said they believe a toxic substance is to blame but have yet to identify it.

“An environmental disaster is looming,” said Lemke of the RND newspaper group. “All sides are working flat out to find out the reasons for this mass extinction and to minimize possible further damage.”

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to


Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the waterway will take years to return to normal.

“The scale of this pollution is very large. So big that it can take years for the Oder to return to a fairly normal state,” Morawiecki said on a regular podcast on Friday.

“It is likely that enormous amounts of chemical waste were dumped into the river,” he said, adding that those responsible will be held accountable.

A spokesman for Germany’s environment minister told a news conference on Friday that the situation is being closely monitored and it’s not yet clear what got into the water.

“We have an incomplete picture,” the spokesman said. “We need clarity about what materials are in the water.”


Dead fish float on the surface of the Oder River as the water has been contaminated causing the mass death of fish in the river, in Kostrzyn nad Oder, Poland August 11, 2022. Cezary Aszkielowicz/Agencja via Portal

Continue reading

Green activists and opposition politicians have criticized the Polish government for not reacting quickly enough to the danger and for not warning Poles not to swim and fish in the river, which has been contaminated since late July.

Germany also complains about Poland’s reaction: Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel had previously said that “the communication chains between the Polish and German sides did not work in this case”.

The head of Poland’s national water management agency said the situation was serious and Poland had collected over 11 tons of dead fish by Thursday evening.

“(It) is being investigated by the prosecutor’s office, the police and local environmental protection inspectors,” Przemyslaw Daca, head of Polish waters, was quoted as saying by Poland’s Radio 24.

“The problem is huge, the pollution wave runs from Wroclaw to Szczecin. That’s hundreds of river kilometers, the pollution is gigantic.”

An analysis of river water carried out this week gave evidence of “synthetic chemical substances, very likely also with a toxic effect on vertebrates,” said the Environment Ministry of the State of Brandenburg on Thursday. It is still unclear how the substance got into the water.

According to the rbb, the state laboratory found high levels of mercury in the water samples.

However, Wladyslaw Dajczak, the head of Poland’s Lubusz province, told the PAP news agency that tests carried out on August 10 and 11 showed mercury was only found in “trace amounts”, well within acceptable levels.

He said a barrier was being erected on the Oder River near the town of Kostrzyn to collect dead fish flowing down the river, with 150 Territorial Defense Forces soldiers dispatched to help with the cleanup.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to


Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Marek Strzelecki and Pawel Florkiewicz; Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt and Karol Badohal, writing by Rachel More; Edited by Hugh Lawson, Mike Harrison, Toby Chopra and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: The Thomson Portal Trust Principles.