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Millions of Fish Die in Neuse River

by the Fish Site Editor
18 September 2009, at 1:00am

NORTH CAROLINA, US - Concern is growing about reports of up to 50 million dead fish appearing in the Neuse River in Craven County. Local pig and chicken farms as well as residential, municipal and industrial run-off are being blamed.

WNCT reports that there is a difference of opinion on exactly how many fish have died in recent days along the Neuse River in Craven County, but one thing is for sure – millions of fish are turning up dead.

The Lower Neuse riverkeeper believes as many as 50 million may have died, while the state says it’s somewhere around 12 million.

As Philip Jones reports, no matter the number, there is a growing concern for the health of the river.

Much to the delight of business owners and bean counters, New Bern's waterfront draws thousands of visitors each year. But millions of uninvited guests are causing concern.

"This particular fish kill—it has a different feel to it," said Lower Neuse riverkeeper, Larry Baldwin. "As in, a number of different things going on at one time."

Mr Baldwin says fish started going belly-up on 11 September. They're easy to spot in docks and harbors along the Neuse, as Mr Baldwin says 50 million of them have died.

The state puts that number closer to 12 million. Mr Baldwin says he believes his estimate is correct—and argues that all the dead Atlantic menhaden mean the Neuse River is trying to tell us something.

"We're constantly putting new stresses on the river," Mr Baldwin said. "And it can't handle it."

He points a finger at hog and chicken farms and also believes added nutrients from residential, municipal and industrial run-off could be choking the Neuse.

Not only can you see all the dead fish along the river but you can also smell them, too. The stench is reported as being "pretty overwhelming".

Mr Baldwin says he's ready to raise a stink until someone steps in and stops all these fish kills from happening.

"Let's enforce the laws we do have, to start with," he said. "That would be a major accomplishment. But let's also look at what else do we need to do. Because this river's not going to take it forever."

The state Division of Water Quality agrees that low oxygen levels are likely behind the fish kill, but says it has not found any water quality problems beyond that.

Mr Baldwin told WNCT this is the third largest fish kill in the Neuse's history – and that more fish could continue to die.

the Fish Site Editor