RIVERKEEPER: Fish Kill Showing Up In Trent River, Lawson Creek

Fish continue to turn up dead in the Neuse River, but the riverkeeper says it appears the deaths have slowed down since last week.

Riverkeeper Larry Baldwin says fish are not only dying in the Neuse, but in the Trent River and Lawson Creek as well. He says the size range from juvenile fish to adults that are six inches long.

Baldwin said last week that 50 million fish had died, while state experts put that count at around 13 million.

There are conflicting numbers about just how big that fish kill is in the Neuse River.

The Neuse Riverkeeper is sticking with his 50 million estimate that he made on Wednesday, while the state says the number is closer to 12.3 million.

The Division of Water Quality's Neuse River Response Team Wednesday counted 6.5 million fish that have died during the past 48 hours. The state says that brings to 12.3 million dead fish found dead in the river since the last week of August.

State experts say the large-scale kill involves one species, juvenile Atlantic Mendaden. They say fish near New Bern appeared lethargic, while fish further downstream seemed more active and healthier.

Low levels of dissolved oxygen are still thought to be behind the dead fish.

Fish continue to die in the Neuse River, and now some estimate the number at 50 million. That's the latest estimate from Neuse Riverkeeper after he went out on the river Wednesday afternoon with WITN News.

Larry Baldwin says it's getting so bad that the smell of dead fish is all around New Bern as well as down river. He tells us this is the largest fish kill in the Neuse since 1995 and that it is still growing.

On Monday Baldwin estimated the number of dead fish at 6 million. "This is not a normal event, we do have fish kills naturally, but this never looks like this, this is not a natural occurrence. This is the Neuse River telling us there's a problem," Baldwin told WITN.

Division of Water Quality Spokeswoman Susan Massengale says state crews were also out on the river Wednesday trying to update the count. She said those figures are not yet available.

Massengale says there is no evidence that the kill is caused by anything other than low oxygen levels in the water. She says there are some areas where they are seeing schools of thriving fish, while in other areas only the top three feet of water has enough oxygen for fish to survive.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Science in Morehead City have been measuring oxygen levels along the bottom of the river. Professor Hans Paerl said last week that conditions were "ripe for a fish kill." He says high winds and recent storms helped stir the water.

Paerl says tests have found no conditions other than low oxygen that could have killed the fish, mostly Atlantic menhaden.

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