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Queens Chronicle

Sudden fish die-off in Little Neck Bay

DEC: Affected species may have been bunker chased by predator

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 1:04 pm, Thu Sep 12, 2019.

When Ronald Ramo and his wife headed to Little Neck Bay on a sunny Saturday afternoon, they didn’t expect to make a shocking discovery.

Walking by Little Neck Bay on the Joe Michael’s Mile near the Bayside Marina on Aug. 24, the couple saw something that initially looked like garbage in the water.

“There was just a mess of dead fish everywhere,” said Ramo, who lives in South Ozone Park and works as an attorney in Manhattan.

He and his wife went north up to Fort Totten, where along Shore Road they saw even more of the dead fish. Some were in the water and others lay on the shore.

“In all my years of boating and fishing, I’ve never seen a die-off like that in my life,” said Ramo.

In total, he said he could see 100 to 150 fish dead in the bay that day. Some of them seemed to be floating south toward Alley Creek, he said. Ramo also noticed that small, scavenger fish did not appear to be impacted by the die-off.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation told the Chronicle that it’s aware of the incident. According to the agency, the affected species is bunker, a kind of herring.

“It is not unusual to see dead bunker at this time of year as these fish swim in large schools and can be chased by predators (such as bluefish) into enclosed areas where oxygen can be rapidly depleted, resulting in fish mortalities,” the agency said.

Dead fish often have a noticeable odor. Ramo said he didn’t notice a strong smell, but others did.

A user of the website Reddit created a thread on Aug. 25 about dead fish in Little Neck Bay. One user commented, “It smelled AWFUL there today.”

Back in 2005, a large die-off in the bay led environmentalists to say the cause was lack of oxygen brought on by excessive use of lawn fertilizers by homeowners.

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