A stinky situation is affecting a community on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island as a massive amount of dead fish rot in the waters of a cove that’s surrounded by homes.
It’s not the first time dead fish have been floating around this summer in the Harvey Cedars community, but the latest incident in Kinsey Cove is leading to complaints about the scent of rotting fish carcasses wafting through the air.
“Originally, they were sinking to the bottom and that’s how we handled it the first time. Now I believe the smell is pretty bad from what I hear, so I don’t know what our next steps are at this time,” Harvey Cedars Municipal Clerk Daina Dale said.
Harvey Cedars Police Department Chief Robert Burnaford said he first heard about the latest incident on Tuesday, but it likely started over the weekend, meaning the peanut bunkers have been baking under the sun for a few days now.
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NBC10’s SkyForce10 helicopter showed the fish packed close together Wednesday as they floated right in front of some homes and among small boats.
This summer has been unusual, Burnaford said. Since August, dead fish have cropped up in Kinsey Cove five different times, with a sixth occurrence about a mile south in Harvest Cove, according to the chief.
“In my experience, this is the first time this has happened,” Burnaford said, noting he’s been with the police department for 16 years.
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The borough has been working with the Long Beach Island Health Department and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in the latest case. An official with the health department declined to comment.
The working hypothesis is that the fish are swimming into the cove and dying because of low oxygen levels, Burnaford said. He cited unusually warm water temperatures as a possible reason for why there’s not enough oxygen.
On Thursday, the NJDEP told NBC10 that the menhaden – the scientific name for the fish – usually travel in large schools and require a lot of dissolved oxygen. The department confirmed that low amounts of dissolved oxygen due to “very warm” water temperatures caused the die-off.
Dale said the borough doesn’t have the “water capabilities” to remove the fish. Burnaford noted that the Harvey Cedars Public Works Department has removed some fish that have washed up on land, but as for the ones in the water, it’s essentially a waiting game until they sink.
“We understand it is a nuisance and hopefully within a few days it’ll clear itself out,” Burnaford said, adding that, “Hopefully this is a rare occurrence and we don’t experience this again.”
The Harvey Cedars Police Department tweeted Thursday morning that it was "aware of the recent fish kills in Kinsey Cove & are doing what we can do address it."