Health & Environment

Riverhead Town holds off on fish kill cleanup after high tide

Some dead fish from last week's kill still lined the beach at Indian Island. (Credit: Nicole Smith)
Some dead fish from last week’s kill still lined the beach at Indian Island. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The high tide went out Wednesday night, and with it went hundreds of dead fish. That’s exactly the news Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller wanted to hear.

Chief Hegermiller — who has been put in charge of cleanup in the wake of last week’s massive fish kill in the Peconic Estuary — said the tides cleared most of the town properties of carcasses.

The fortunate tide will spare town employees the hassle of disposing of thousands of dead bunker.

“It’s getting better all the time,” he said. “We’re watching what’s going on every day.”

The bait fish began washing ashore around Flanders Bay and in the creeks in Aquebogue and Jamesport last week. Experts said the kill was caused by a bloom of red tide algae in the creeks, which have also been blamed for an unprecedented die-off of diamondback terrapin turtles last month.

Though Southampton Town’s Board of Trustees began removing the fish earlier this week, Mr. Walter said Riverhead Town was waiting for the full moon tide Wednesday before making a decision.

That patience appears to have paid off. At South Jamesport Beach Thursday afternoon the coast was fish-free, with the exception of a lone dead fish that had washed ashore.

But county property at Indian Island still had dozens of remains buried in the sand. Swarmed by flies, the fish continued to form a long line a few feet out from the shoreline.

That county land will be cleaned by county parks employees, said Legislator Al Krupski, though it was unclear when the cleanup would begin.

Residents who have dead fish on their private property will have to bag the fish themselves; Riverhead Town will coordinate pickup of the bags.

Some environmentalists have warned that allowing the tide to take the remains back out to sea to rot may cause further issues for the ecosystem.

“Having the bottom buried in rotting fish can’t be a good thing for the survival of other marine life,” Defend H20 founder Kevin McAllister told the News-Review this week. “Things are going to be stressed from this … You’re talking an enormous amount of biomass just rotting on the bottom of the bays or the creeks.”

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What Causes a  Fish Kill- (3)