The Division of Marine Fisheries has determined that a fish kill in Padanaram Harbor (several thousand fish) was caused by a lack of dissolved oxygen in the Harbor and Apponagansett River.
The fish kill involved only one species, Menhaden, which commonly expire in hot weather and enclosed embayments or rivers. Long stretches of cloudy, hot weather contribute to lowered oxygen levels. Large schools of fish in small, tight embayments often "smother" themselves.
There are no perpetrators responsible for this mortality. Menhaden (also known as Pogies) are "victims of their own success" having recently been observed in Padanaram Harbor flourishing in large dense schools that caused them to "suffocate" and die off from lack of oxygen.
Menhaden are an abundant and important food source for large predators like striped bass, bluefish, etc. in our region. When large schools of bait fish enter warm-water estuaries and rivers in large numbers during summer months, they deplete the water's dissolved oxygen and die in large numbers. Insufficient oxygen across the and through the gills of tightly-packed fish in shallow, warm, brackish water causes death. Predator fish and fowl feast on the dead and dying fish, leaving partial carcass remains on boats, docks and our shoreline.
There are no toxins or other pollutants contained in those shoreline or floating fish carcasses. They should be allowed to return to the food chain for crab and other fish food, which will prevent rodent and fly infestations.
Water quality testing by Town Health Officials has reportedly shown acceptable, passing results for continued bathing activity.