Neuse River Fish Kill Is The Longest In Decades

Oct 29, 2020

More than a month after a fish kill in the Neuse River was initially reported, thousands of Atlantic menhaden continue to turn up dead in the water and on shore. “Fish kills are a fairly regular occurrence on the Neuse due to all of the nutrient pollution,” said Katy Hunt, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper with Sound Rivers. “Although, we haven’t seen a fish kill that lasted over a month since the 1990s.” At the end of September, Sound Rivers started receiving reports of a fish kill occurring at the mouth of Slocomb Creek, the Carolina Pines area, and across the river at Kennel Beach. The algal bloom responsible for the fish kill has since spread to encompass a 40 square mile area of the Neuse River. “I’ve been out several times to the Carolina Pines area, and within a matter of hours, the number of fish that I saw floating nearly tripled,” Hunt said. “There were fish as far upstream and downstream as I could see.” The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has collected samples, and all of the results have shown an alga, which is non-toxic to humans, is to blame for the fish kill. Hunt warned that the public should avoid coming into contact with dead and dying fish. “It’s been pretty much only Atlantic menhaden…some crabs who were in crab pots are dead and dying, and a week or two ago, there were a couple of dead seagulls that were found floating on the water and on the dock in the Carolina Pines area. We cannot say for sure if the dead gulls are related to the fish kill or if they are related to something else.” Algal blooms are caused by excessive amounts of runoff that enter an estuary from various sources, including sewer spills, industrial animal operations, and fertilizers applied to lawns. An overabundance of algae then depletes the water of oxygen, leading to a fish kill.  Hunt believes increased nutrient loads in the river, combined with issues like climate change exacerbates the problems that are occurring in the Neuse River. “All of these things work together to create this giant problem, this environmental disaster.”