Thousands of dead fish wash up along a river in New Jersey, USA

Fish Kill Alert

Local waterways and river banks have been awash in dead fish recently, an occurrence that seems to be increasing.

Swarna Muthukrishnan, Ph.D. the staff scientist for Clean Ocean Action, explained the scenarios during which this phenomenon might occur, which included natural (varying oxygen levels in the water), man-made (climate change, toxic runoff) and bacterial.

And the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), has now determined that a Vibrio bacterium specific to fish seems to be causing the current fish kills in the area, according to information from COA.

Residents and others along the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers may be used to seeing the dead menhaden – an oily fish harvested by fishermen for chum and for use in sup- plements, livestock feed and cosmetics, among oth- er things – at certain times throughout the year. A filter fish at the bottom of the food chain, menhaden, or bunker fish, swim in schools and are the favorite prey of larger fish and marine birds. They are often chased into shallow waters and, during warmer months, die from the low levels of dissolved oxygen in those areas.

But dead fish began showing up in November and December, two colder months that don’t usually fit this pattern, and the fish were seen “spinning” in the water before dying. Sightings increased dramatically this past week.

Rick Swanson, a 20-year resident of Fair Haven, said he has seen the dead fish wash up every year and agreed that this year is especially bad. He lives where Fair Haven meets Red Bank at what he called an “elbow” in the Navesink River. “The wind and the current go right into the corners and we get everything that washes up,” he said. This week that included thousands of dead menhaden.

“They’re coming in almost like an oil slick,” Swanson said. “This is definitely several times the volume of anything we’ve ever seen.”

Courtesy of


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