Former Neuse riverkeeper expresses concern about “abnormal” fish kill

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 7:55 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 9:06 AM EDT
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CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina community is dealing with a massive fish kill, and the impacts include the unpleasant smell and deteriorating water quality.

Tens of thousands of dead menhaden fish float along the Neuse River and some areas are more affected than others, like Northwest Creek Marina, where the water from the Neuse brings dead fish into the back creeks.

We’re told that over the past few days, it has progressively gotten worse.

Northwest Creek Marina General Manager, Jeremy McConnell says it is important to be aware of the changes in the water.

“As the water temperature rises, the oxygen levels drop, which causes the fish to, unfortunately, perish. fish starts to deteriorate in the water and creates higher bacteria levels, which in turn can cause sicknesses, so something you have to watch closely, and especially if you are out in the water or anything,” McConnell said.

Neuse Riverkeeper Emeritus Rick Dove says he’s lived by the river for nearly 50 years and says a major fish kill like this is abnormal. Dove shared, “This river got many nutrients in it, too much fertilizer in it. prior to 1991, in 1991 we lost billions of fish all at one time, since then, we’ve lost hundreds and millions which is what you’re seeing here today. it’s not just in Northwest Creek Marina, it’s all throughout the river. It’s a sign that this river is in serious trouble.

Water quality specialists from Sound Rivers say that menhaden is an important species to the river because they serve as the major food source for bigger fishes and seabirds. They also eat algae, which is helpful to keep a balance in the ecosystem.

Sound Rivers added that the nutrient pollution combined with higher temperature water from climate change is most likely the cause for massive fish kills like this.