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DEP: Delaware Bay scene of major wash-up of dead fish

Zachary R
Moriches Daily
Aug 13, 2010

Dead creatures of the sea are washing ashore up and down the east coast of the United States as officials scramble to find a cause. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish are washing ashore, possibly as a result of low dissolved oxygen levels in the water caused by hot summer temperatures.

In the latest incident the Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a major wash-up of dead fish along the Delaware Bay in Cape May County. The cause of the die-off is not known and is under investigation.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring and the Bureau of Emergency Response are working with local officials to evaluate the wash-up of menhaden that appears to be encompassing a large stretch of the Delaware Bay shoreline. The fish appear to be exclusively small menhaden, also known as peanut bunker.

The Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring reviewed results of water samples taken Wednesday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and found no indication of toxic phytoplankton species, such as red tide. The DEP is also analyzing oxygen levels in the water.

The DEP has dispatched conservation officers who are working with the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management to evaluate the beaches. The DEP has sent out an aircraft to assess the extent of the die-off.

Initial reports suggest dead fish are heavy in an area of Middle Township known as Pierce’s Point.

A Growing Problem
Just this Monday, beach residents awoke to a foul smell when thousands of dead fish washed ashore on a small island on the east side of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Officials explained that the fish were killed due to a lack of oxygen caused by warm waers. All of the fish were Menhaden, which are especially sensitive to such changes, and they may have been dead for days prior to washing up on the beach.

Just last month hundreds of dead sea animals and dead penguins have washed up on the shores of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Scientists are investigating the cause of these deaths. A fish kill in July at Lake Lily in Cape May Point was also blamed on high water temperatures reducing oxygen levels.

According to the Institute of Environmental and Natural Resources, around 530 penguins, five dolphins and other sea creatures were found on the shores. Although no link has been made with the Gulf Oil Disaster or Toxic Dumping, all signs point to a growing pollution issue that may manifest itself in years to come at even greater levels. Many are concerned over the rate at which mass die-off events are occurring in the world’s oceans.

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