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Marine experts say Neuse River fish kill is the worst in decades

Neuse River fish kill
Neuse River fish kill(WITN)
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - Dead fish are washing up on the shores of the Neuse River.

It’s a fish kill marine experts say is the worst in decades and is a sign of climate change.

“A fish kill that has lasted for over a month, and one of this magnitude; we haven’t seen since the 90s," said Katy Hunt, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper.

The little white specs in the water are the remains of tens of thousands of dead fish washing up on the shore.

“This fish kill is caused by an algal bloom that is, essentially—too many nutrients in our rivers are fertilizing this algae; so that it blooms, dies, and then depletes the oxygen—suffocating the fish," Hunt said,

U-N-C Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Hans Paerl, says it’s a sign of climate change.

“So, it is related to climate change because we know we’re getting wetter, and more frequent storms that are leading to this massive run-off events. And all you need to do is look at a satellite picture," Paerl said,

Paerl says the fish are already stressed from low oxygen, and the organic matter isn’t helping. It may have even affected the seagulls that eat them.

“It’s possible that these guls did get sick and die from eating the dead menhaden, but it’s also possible they died from some other cause," Hunt said.

Hunt says they’re still doing research.

Paerl says something can be done. “Try to retain nutrients and organic matter as best as possible in the watersheds," Hunt said. "Short term, it’s unavoidable, but in the long-term, we can do better land management to avoid such extreme events as we’re getting now.”

And if you want to help, Hunt says you can reach out to your local political leaders, as she says scientists need more funding to protect the rivers.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s research shows these algae are not toxic to humans, however, if you see any dead fish, it is not recommended to have contact with the water in the area.

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