Predatory fish might’ve played a role in massive fish kill in Shinnecock Canal; videos

The Shinnecock Canal was blanketed with tens of thousands of dead fish Monday morning, prompting environmental officials to launch an investigation into the cause as local authorities organized a cleanup effort to thwart the smell of rotting fish.

WABC reported that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is looking into the incident involving a fish known as menhaden or bunker fish, a type of herring.

One local expert told 27east.com that he's lived in the area for 20 years and has never seen a fish kill in the canal, which connects Great Peconic Bay with Shinnecock Bay in Hampton Bays on Long Island, N.Y.

“The canal is a confined area, and when the locks are closed, water isn’t moving,” Dr. Chris Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, told 27east.com. “Even when there aren’t any fish in there, water is still and the oxygen levels drop. Maybe not to fish-kill levels. But when you add fish in there, that knocks the oxygen levels down even further.”

Southampton Town Trustee Bill Pell told 27east.com that the bunker "were so thick along the beach that they came into the inlet and got trapped because the locks were closed."

Gobler said the fish normally are migrating south but turned north because of "incredible predation along the beaches.”

Peconic Baykeeper Sean O’Neill agreed that predatory fish might have played a role in the fish kill, saying the fish were pushed up against the closed locks by a school of striped bass and bluefish.

The super moon and the difference in tides compared to normal tides played a part, too, he said.

“There were so many [fish], they ran out of oxygen and that caused them to die off,” O’Neill told 27east.com.

WNBC reported that something similar occurred earlier this year in New Jersey's Raritan Bay where hundreds of thousands of fish died after likely being chased into the bay by bluefish or skates. Dissolved oxygen levels in the water dropped to a critical level as a result of so many fish in the bay.

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