Environment

Monday afternoon maptime: 10,000 fish die in Sparrow Bay near Beaufort

Fish kills in North Carolina, 2015 (yellow) and 2016 (blue). Click on an icon to read more details of the kill.

The Atlantic menhaden had a rough week in Sparrow Bay.

At least 10,000 of the fish died along a three-mile strip of the bay in Beaufort, the largest fish kill reported yet this year. Hot weather, algae blooms and low oxygen levels in the bay contributed to the die-off, which occurred between Aug. 19 and Aug. 23, according to the Division of Water Resources.

More than 13,000 fish have died in six kills this year, the lowest number in at least a decade.

Three of this year’s kills occurred in Mecklenburg County.

Fish die-offs are common in the summer. The water heats up and combines with nitrogen and phosphorus from various sources, including fertilizer from lawns and fields, even goose and cow feces. That recipe creates nutritious all-you-can-eat buffet for the algae. But to the chagrin of the fish, the algae takes up all the good oxygen, and they suffocate — not a good way to go.

However, on at least one occasions this year, algae was not the culprit. In March, swine waste spilled into a pond in Surry County after a pump was vandalized. Ninety fish died.

In 2015, fuel and chemical spills, asphalt sealant, herbicides and seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean, killed 80 percent of the 21,000 fish recorded in mortality reports.

In 2014, 659,000 fish died in kills, and in 2013, 20 million fish succumbed, mainly in estuaries near the coast.

Report a fish kill on the Division of Water Resources website, which is also mobile friendly.

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