MONMOUTH COUNTY – An “undetermined species of bacteria” has killed hundreds of fish in Monmouth County waters, state environmental and wildlife officials said.
At the beginning of April, hundreds of dead menhaden (also known as mossbunker) were found floating in the Raritan Bay and Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers. This incident had previously occurred last year in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
According to state environmental authorities, they are currently trying to identify a bacteria known as Vibrio.
Larry Hajna, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP, said the Division of Fish & Wildlife is investigating this incident as well as the incidents that happened last year.
“The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is actively investigating menhaden mortalities reported in Raritan Bay and the Navesink River of Monmouth County,” Hajna said. “More laboratory work is being done to determine the specific species of bacteria. The DEP is also working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to better understand the mortalities.”
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission work to manage the number of menhaden along the East coast.
Many local environmental groups such as the New Jersey Sierra Club and Clean Ocean Action (COA) are asking for federal and state action.
The director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel, expressed how alarming it is that hundreds of fish washed up dead and how this is a sign that there are serious issues with our water quality.
“The Vibrio bacteria causing these fish kills is primarily linked to nutrient pollution from sewage, septic, and storm water runoff. It’s also linked to warmer water, which is connected to climate change. This is even more alarming because the bacteria can cause illness in humans, so anyone swimming in the water could get sick. This is a direct result of the DEP’s failure to deal with water pollution from nutrients and raw sewage,” Tittel said.
According to Hajna and the DEP, the only fish being affected is the menhaden and there remains no risk to human or wildlife health in New Jersey.
In addition, Hajna explained that there is no evidence to imply that suggest human health or other fish, shellfish or wildlife are at risk. However, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recommends people do not handle, collect or consume any dead fish or those showing signs of disease.