2009: A bad year for fish, great one for seagulls | North Carolina | Indy Week
Pin It

2009: A bad year for fish, great one for seagulls 

More than 13 million fish died in "fish kill events" in North Carolina in 2009—the most in the 13 years that data has been collected. Eighty percent perished in one event last fall when too many fish and not enough oxygen killed 10.2 million Atlantic menhaden fish in the Neuse River, according to a presentation before the Environmental Review Commission last week. (Download the report, PDF 2.1 MB)

The fish kill event lasted 50 days from mid-September through October near the New Bern portion of the river and Broad Creek. Scrumptious algae attracted the fish, which range in size from 3 to 5 inches. Soon, an eight-mile long, 100-yard wide school of fish packed the river like sardines, but warm weather meant the water couldn't hold enough oxygen for them to breathe.

Tests showed no significant lesions on the fish, toxic algae or chemical compounds that could account for the die-off.

"The take-home message for why we saw so many dead and dying fish is low oxygen in the river at that given time at that given location," said Jason Green, a senior environmental specialist and division leader for the Neuse River Rapid Response Team. "These fish were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

There are economic consequences of such a large die-off. Menhadens are fished commercially and processed for their oil and bone meal, which is used in poultry and livestock feed, cosmetics and paint.

And environmentally, the fish kill is a harbinger of troubled waters, according to a Neuse Riverkeepers' report. Excessive algae is often a sign of high amounts of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrates, in the water. Nutrients are a byproduct of runoff from industrial livestock farms, stormwater runoff and fertilizer-rich discharges from home lawns.

As for the figure of 13.8 million, investigators used conservative estimates and say the actual total could be double that number.

Fish kill events, defined as 25 or more fish dying together, occurred in five of the state's 17 major river basins. There were 33 events total, a drop from 61 in 2008. But the events were far more deadly. There were 7.5 million fish deaths in 2008 compared with less than 1 million annually for four straight years.

Two thirds of the 2009 deaths happened in the Neuse (213) and Tar/Pamlico (113) estuaries, the report states. Estuaries, which mix fresh and saltwater, are particularly dangerous because they can't hold as much oxygen.

The Neuse, and mainly the Atlantic menhaden, accounted for 97 percent of all fish mortality in 2009.

"These are small, sensitive fish. They swim in large, dense schools," Green said. "They are clearly susceptible to low oxygen."

The last similar fish kill occurred in 2001, Green said, but that only claimed 200,000 fish. It's difficult to predict when the next one could occur, he said, because these events are often connected to the weather.

The Triangle region experienced only two fish kills. About 100 died in August at MacGregor Lake in Cary. Dead fish were discovered at the bottom of a spillway on the third consecutive day of 99-degree temperatures.

At Pine Lake near Roxboro, 100 fish died in May because of a lack of water in the pond combined with runoff from a leaking septic system upstream. (According to the fish kill report, "the system was recently dug up and repaired but is not permitted by the state and is still leaking based on fecal results obtained at the site.")

Sen. Floyd McKissisck Jr. (D-Durham), one of only a half-dozen committee members still in attendance when Green presented, asked how one disposes of 10.2 million dead fish.

Green said they disintegrate quickly, sometimes in only three days.

"And seagulls have a blast," said commission co-chairman Rep. Pryor Gibson (D-Anson).

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in North Carolina



Twitter Activity

Comments

Good day if you need a loan of any kind then you have to contact me for a convenient loan …

by antoniojose on Abandoned mobile homes plague North Carolina (North Carolina)

Our local law enforcement aren't doing anything about illegal immigration. If anything they are willfully ignoring it at the benefit …

by Timothy Oswald on A New Study Shows That Turning Local Cops Into Immigration Enforcers Hasn’t Made N.C. Communities Safer (North Carolina)

Most Recent Comments

Good day if you need a loan of any kind then you have to contact me for a convenient loan …

by antoniojose on Abandoned mobile homes plague North Carolina (North Carolina)

Our local law enforcement aren't doing anything about illegal immigration. If anything they are willfully ignoring it at the benefit …

by Timothy Oswald on A New Study Shows That Turning Local Cops Into Immigration Enforcers Hasn’t Made N.C. Communities Safer (North Carolina)

Another thing. Hog and Poultry producers along with power providers shouldn't be allowed to build right on our river systems. …

by Timothy Oswald on Will a Raleigh Jury’s $50 Million Verdict Against Murphy-Brown LLC Force Big Pork to Clean Up Its Act? (North Carolina)

Humans rely on clean air and water.. to exist, as in LIVE, . . - never to be dismissed as …

by goldenruler1 on The First of the Murphy-Brown Hog-Farm Nuisance Trials Began in Raleigh This Week (North Carolina)

Hard to believe this company and it's lawyers are claiming lawsuits against them are soley for monetary gain. Ridiculous as …

by Barbara McKinney on The First of the Murphy-Brown Hog-Farm Nuisance Trials Began in Raleigh This Week (North Carolina)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation