A half-mile area stretching from the
Mason's Inlet jetty to Loosin's Creek is littered with dead fish.
During the late afternoon on Jan. 9,
North Carolina Marine Patrol responded to a report from a member of
the public regarding the situation. North Carolina's division of
Coastal Management, which manages the Coastal Reserve and the
National Estuarine Research Reserve Program, was also notified of the
phenomenon by a member of the public.
The dead fish are Atlantic Menhaden. State
officials say it appears the fish clustered, by the thousands, in a
narrow area of Loosin's Creek. This behavior had been previously
observed in winter months, and is thought to be a defensive response
to the presence of predators.
for the menhaden, the narrow area they clustered in did not contain
enough oxygen to support them. The high concentration of fish almost
entirely depleted the available oxygen in the water in less than an
state-wide water monitoring program maintained by Coastal Management
has a station in the area where the fish-kill occurred, which picked
up the abrupt drop in oxygen levels.
may be the first time we have had continuous monitoring of water
quality in an area at the exact time of a fish kill,” stated Jim
Gregson, Surface Water Protection supervisor for the state Division
of Water Quality, in a press release. “The data recorded by Coastal Management’s
monitoring station was a big help in determining the cause of this
While officials say there is no present danger to the public, visitors
to Masonboro Island and surrounding area beaches should expect fish
to continue to surface over the next few days, as well as to see
large numbers of birds feeding on them.