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Thousands Of Dead Bunker Fish Pile Up In Walls In Hampton Bays

Like a scene from a horror movie of sorts, hundreds of thousands of dead bunker fish — or Menhaden — piled up in a wall up to two feet deep, blocking the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays. The colossal fish kill could become even worse on Tuesday, town officials state.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said,

There are hundreds of thousands, if not a million, dead bunker.

Both Shinnecock Canal and Shinnecock Bay are now filled with dead fish, believed to be caused by a lack of oxygen due to the large populations, the Westhampton Patch reports.

Stunned and horrified spectators crowded Hampton Bays to see one of the strangest sights the town has ever had. One resident couldn’t believe what he was seeing and smelling. “I thought it was frost in the morning,” he said.

Schneiderman said, “We fear it’s going to get worse tonight, because there are a lot of live bunker still in the Shinnecock Bay. They’re going to run out of oxygen. There’s just not enough of a water column, when you have that many fish in a small, concentrated area.”

Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stonybrook University, explained the phenomenon, “Menhaden or bunker are migrating south and schooling densely in our bays and coastal ocean. There was a large school in the canal last night. The sun went down and the locks closed at the same time both of which lead to low oxygen individually. The fish also create a large oxygen demand.” Oxygen levels dropped so dramatically that the fish could not breathe.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the incident, CBS Local reports. Local fishermen and the DEC noted that the dead fish will eventually fill with hydrogen sulfide gas and rise to the surface, posing more problems. Stormy weather could pile them up on the shore, meaning there will be a large stink for many days to come.

On the bright side, many young birds that prey on bunker and some fishermen are enjoying the sudden early Christmas present – the fish can be used to bait lobster and crab traps, as well as for fishing.

 

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