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DEP: Here's Why Thousands Of Fish Are Dying In NJ Rivers

Dead menhaden wash up along the Hudson River last December.
Dead menhaden wash up along the Hudson River last December. Photo Credit: Tom Cayler

Countless instances of dead fish found floating in New Jersey waterways since last year has called for a statewide investigation.

Last July, hundreds of dead menhaden -- an extremely abundant fish found in coastal areas, also known as bunker fish -- were seen floating in the Hudson River, causing shock and concern among many residents.

Recent reports of menhaden mortalities in the Raritan Bay and Navesink River of Monmouth County prompted the investigation by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, department spokesman Larry Hajna said.

While the investigation has identified an undetermined species of bacteria in the Vibrio family of bacteria as the cause, more lab work is being done to determine the specific species of bacteria. 

"Vibrio species are quite diverse and common in marine habitats," Hajna said. 

"The only fish species being impacted appears to be menhaden, an extremely abundant fish found in coastal areas harvested primarily for bait and non-food commercial purposes."

There is nothing to suggest human health or other fish, shellfish or wildlife are at risk.

As with any wildlife, however, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recommends people do not handle, collect, or consume any dead fish or those showing signs of disease.

The DEP is working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to better understand the mortalities, Hajna said.

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