Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Travis Graves inspects dead menhaden along the shore at Flanners Beach Wednesday morning
A putrid odor fills the air at Flanners Beach Wednesday.
For as far as one can see, dead Atlantic menhaden lay sprawled out across the riverbank, the result of the Neuse River’s most recent fish kill.
Travis Graves, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, says that it is getting worse in numbers of and in size of the dead fish.
“We’ve been seeing the ‘peanut’ or younger ones for a few weeks now, but more of the adults are beginning to show up dead on the shore now,” Graves said. “I’m estimating the numbers to probably be closer to 200,000 now than the 100,000 we first thought it to be.”
Graves said the fish are dying from a lack of oxygen caused by excessive nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrogen in the water.
He said that algae blooms develop in the water and a bacterium called Aphanomyces Invadans (or A. Invadans) kills the menhaden from the inside out.
Each of the dead fish on the shore has a dime-sized portion of its body near their rectum missing, almost as if something took a bite of them.
Tens of thousands of dead fish have washed ashore along the Neuse River in Craven County.
Travis Graves, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, tells 9 On Your Side the fish have been piling up on shore at Flanners Beach. He estimates the fish are dying near channel marker 11 and winds are pushing the fish over to the beach.
Graves has been in touch with the UNC Chapel Hill Marine Labs in Morehead City where they’re monitoring oxygen levels in the water. He says just east of Flanners Beach is a salt wedge which has been shrinking because of the rain we’ve had in recent weeks. This has led to lower oxygen levels.
Graves said at this time there is no indication that infection is killing the fish. He’s 90% confident the fish kill is due to lower dissolved oxygen in the water.
People should refrain from swimming at the beaches near the dead fish.