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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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 21, 2009 at 01:54 PM
    Some of you need to get a grip. Oxygen levels do this, its a proven fact, the state tests the water in and around factories, marinas and homeowners. They test by people that are liberal at UNC. Why can't some of you understand that "facts" pervail here. Stop blaming industry which are over regulated now as it is. The fish had a record hatch out this summer doom and gloom perveyors, the water and wind conditions did a swing in a bad direction just like it does most years. Its natural, get over it, you getting me environmental guy?
  • by Dave on Sep 21, 2009 at 12:50 PM
    Something "fishy" is going on here.
  • by The Pirate Lady Location: Grimesland on Sep 21, 2009 at 12:19 PM
    Wow, that's alot of dead fish!
  • by William Location: Memphis TN on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:29 AM
    Is it just me or do you not find it ironic that all of this started on the 11th of SEPT !!! After all, the Media and Tabloids have been talking about how it was possible that "Osama Bin laden" had recently placed “al-Qaeda associate” inside of the New York area !! Athorities raided a home there just this past week looking for these Associates !!http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6833423.ece this is the link to the story !!! Wake Up People !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • by Anonymous on Sep 18, 2009 at 06:39 AM
    I cant believe that they get paid to count dead fish and then argue over how many are dead.I bet I can get closer to how many are dead.ALL OF THEM FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!They need to be more constuctive with a dollar.
  • by Eastern NC River Location: EAstern NC on Sep 18, 2009 at 06:10 AM
    Oh yes pfiesteria. I forgot about that one. I am suprised that hasn't been brought up. I guess it hasn't been since it has been proven to be way overblown. What exactly did the state cover up in regards to the pfiseteria hysteria? What exactly has been proven regarding it? Was this a normal fishkill? I say it was larger than normal. Why did it occur? Probably related to the fluctuations in salinity levels in the river going from very dry conditions to heavy rainfall conditions over the last several months. It happens - Unfortanate for the fish populations but it happens.
  • by bubba Location: washington on Sep 18, 2009 at 05:59 AM
    how do fish 'float to the bottom' and how do you count fish on the river bottom when you can't see them?
  • by McArthur Park on Sep 18, 2009 at 05:22 AM
    The terrifying thing about this article is that we of Lenoir County and Kinston are DRINKING this stuff. They had to change the purifying agent because Chlorine(a poison) was not strong enough. Now they use a mixture of Flouride(poison) and Ammonia(poison). Oh well, such is life.
  • by Buzz Location: MillCreek on Sep 18, 2009 at 03:58 AM
    We have to close down ALL of the coastal communities,everthing east of I-95, and move inland. Save the waterways now!!! Buzz-
  • by Doug Location: ENC on Sep 17, 2009 at 08:00 PM
    I know Larry Baldwin, and he does know a lot about the Neuse River, both from studying the ecology of the river, and from observing it for many years. Larry may be passionate about protecting the Neuse (that is his job, after all), but if anyone has a reason to spin this, it's the state people. They have a history of covering up real problems like Pfiesteria, until it gets so bad they can no longer keep a lid on it. I'm not taking a position on who has a more accurate count, but I don't believe this is a "normal" fish kill.
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