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A compilation of reported fish kills in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary during 1982 through 2001
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  • Alternative Title:
    Fish kills in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary during 1982 through 2001
  • Description:
    Concern about mass fish mortalities in eastern U. S. coastal regions has increased in recent years. Major kills attributed to the toxic dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida or related species, primarily in eutrophic estuaries in the southeast but ranging north to Chesapeake Bay and possibly to Delaware, have sparked interest in fish kill phenomena in general. We found that lack of organized information was a hindrance to the understanding of fish kills in the long-stressed Hudson-Raritan estuary. To address this we compiled kill reports for 1982 through 2001, with focus on seasonality, causes, incidence, and kill size. All reported fish kills in the estuary during 1982-2001, a total of 15, occurred between mid-June and mid-September. Their causes were uncertain, as generally is the case with fish kills. Most were attributed to low dissolved oxygen; decomposing phytoplankton blooms; and seasonal high water temperatures. A role for toxic substances in one of the kills was suspected. Reported possible causes of some monospecific kills of Atlantic menhaden included low dissolved oxygen and spillage from fishing nets. No pattern for the kills over the 20 years was evident; incidence data were inadequate for statistical analysis. Sandy Hook Bay may be a problem locus because seven of the 15 kills were detected there. With the caveat that mortality assessments likely were consistently inadequate and low, one kill involved about one million fish and another was estimated at 3.9 million. These can be considered major incidents; the other 13 were relatively minor. The occurrence of two major kills during 20 years does not suggest the estuary to be a prime center for such phenomena. We believe, nevertheless, that the problem requires additional examination. We discuss the need for more comprehensive and unified investigation of fish kills in the estuary.
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