Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dead Fish in Northport

There was a good-sized fish kill in Northport Bay over the weekend. The inner part of the bay was filled with dead mossbunkers, some of which were bleeding in a way that John Waldman, a fisheries biologist at Queens College, says he's never seen before. In an email he sent me yesterday afternoon, he said, "... the redness of these specimens is pretty amazing. I've seen mild hemmorhaging in stressed bunker but nothing like this."

John didn't witness it though. A fellow named Andrew Silver, an engineering geologist, told John about it and took pictures. Here's what Andrew said:

I was in the back of Northport Bay on Saturday and there were thousands of dead bunker washed up on the shore and in the spartina.

I found about 8 fish swimming in circles and three of the fish had bright red heads and tails – they looked like Koi!

I can only assume that this color results from the stresses associated with hypoxia, but hadn’t seen this displayed in bunker before.

The pictures (phone not camera) do not do justice to the intensity of the hemorrhaging. The color could be seen from 30 feet out. With the water temperature so high and the shallow nature of the back of the embayment (7 feet -8 feet at the most), I was pretty sure that the red was stress-related to anoxic conditions, however, I have never seen this in bunker and none of the hundreds of dead fish strewn about had this color. I thought that the lack of color in the dead fish was notable as well, –but I was about 2 hours out from low tide, and the fish were scattered through the tufts of spartina to the high tide line- so maybe the blood drained out of the cheeks, head and tail.

Dissolved oxygen in the main part of Long Island Sound has been higher (that is, better) than usual this summer, but shallow bays and harbors can easily lose virtually all their oxygen, especially when the water is very warm. If bunker epecially get trapped there, they suffocate. The picture belows shows one of the red fish that Andrew said were swimming in circles

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