State News

More than 500,000 fish die in kill in Neuse River

Posted August 5, 2008
Updated August 6, 2008

— State officials say approximately 538,000 fish of different species died in a three-mile stretch of the Neuse River near New Bern because of a lack of oxygen likely caused by hot, still conditions.

Monitoring stations showed oxygen levels dropped in the area between 11 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday. The water temperature was about 90 degrees.

Division of Water Quality spokeswoman Susan Massengale said the weather caused the water to become stratified, with no oxygen on the bottom. It appears that some sort of natural event occurred that stirred the water, causing low oxygen through the entire column.

Among the types of fish killed are striped mullet, blue crab, shrimp, flounder, menhaden, spot and croaker.

Water quality officials spent most of Wednesday on the river collecting samples and monitoring areas of concern.

"I think there is a concern we could see more before the week's out and before the summer's out," said Larry Baldwin, the keeper of the Lower Neuse River.

He acknowledges that the heat contributed to the kill but believes continued pollution is a bigger issue.

"There is a much more serious problem here than just warm water," he said. "We know the river is in trouble. We need to step up and take care of it."

State water quality crews that inspected the area found large algae blooms, which can often stem from pollutants and can add to oxygen depletion in the water. Crews also collected numerous water samples, and they still believe the temperatures triggered most of the trouble.

"We can't change the heat, obviously, but we can change what's going into this river," Baldwin said.

Baldwin says he hopes it will at least highlight the importance of keeping the Neuse clean.


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  • nuncvendetta Aug 6, 2008

    They could've released water from Falls Lake to prevent this fish kill. After all, that's what the original intent of Falls Lake was for - flood control during the rainy season and environmental protection during the dry season to prevent stagnant water and deoxygenation.

    Oh wait, they can't release water from Falls Lake because of our boom of Yankees into the Raleigh metro. area. Blame them for the 500,000 dead fish.

  • davidgnews Aug 6, 2008

    Why don't they talk about water quality and algae as well?

  • bs101fly Aug 6, 2008

    they should've listened to the wral forecast.
    then they could've swam the wrong direction because THE FORECAST WOULD'VE BEEN WRONG!
    As USUAL!

  • FromClayton Aug 6, 2008

    Natural? It is possible, but I kinda doubt it. I hope they look into this more.

  • jbyrd Aug 6, 2008

    Just more bad news for an allready stressed, overfished fishery.

    However, this apparent naturally occuring loss is nothing compared to the damaged being caused by commerial trawling and netting in our sounds and coastal rivers. We are the ONLY state on the Atlantic that still allows virtually unlimited netting of all kinds inside the line of demarcation. Except for 3 species that were almost collapsed it is a free for all (river herring may never recover from the wholesale destruction of commercial fishing)
    Until we get politicians that are not somewhat in the pocket of the commercial fishing industry it's only going to get worse. (Are you reading this Marc Basnite?)