Hundreds of Fish Die in Hudson River, But It’s Not an Ominous Sign, State Agency Says

Photo by Danny Katman.

By Carol Tannenhauser

In the last week, large numbers of dead fish have been seen floating in the Hudson River alongside the Upper West Side.

On Wednesday, Amanda A. wrote, “While walking through Riverside Park, I noticed over 100 dead fish floating in the water.”

“This morning on my walk I experienced the horror of hundreds of dead fish floating in the Hudson,” Lynne Thurmond wrote on Thursday. “Some looked like they had exploded.”

No, we are not being visited by another natural disaster. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the fish apparently died as a result of “a natural phenomenon,“ related to the warming of the water in the summer. A spokesperson explained:

“DEC received reports of several dozen dead Atlantic menhaden, also known as bunker, between 79th St. and the George Washington Bridge. The exact cause has not yet been determined but during the summer months as water temperatures warm, water is less able to hold dissolved oxygen than cool water. Fish such as bunker that swim in large schools are particularly vulnerable to low dissolved oxygen content. Low dissolved oxygen, or hypoxia, can often be fatal to these large schools while other fishes and marine organisms are stressed but will ultimately survive. Hypoxia can be triggered by large numbers of fish in confined bodies of water, excessive algal growth, and warm water temperatures. This is a natural phenomenon, and fish kills of this type can be expected during the warm months of the year and generally have little impact on region-wide fish population numbers.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 37 comments | permalink
    1. Bob says:

      Hmm… I thought swarms of locusts was the next sign? Well, these days who can even keep it straight, I suppose!

      • JerryV says:

        We are past locusts. It’s been going on in Africa. Gotta move along. I do hope that you are not a first-born.

      • GG says:

        No, the locusts happened a couple of weeks ago in Africa. I think we’re up to frogs but my bible studies are a little rusty.

        Either way, try to enjoy whatever time we have left…it’s all you can do.

    2. West Sider says:

      More than a hundred now. It looked like thousands today.

    3. Joanne the boatwoman says:

      I hope it’s clean! I’m taking kayaking classes at Pier 84 which includes a rescue simulation. My kayak will be flipped over and I will be in the water for a brief time.

    4. Ed says:

      Maybe I’ll wait a week or two before I go back to the sushi bar!

    5. MB/UWSer says:

      Water warming due to a visit by an alien ship overhead? After all, the Hudson does have a history of such visitors.

      Would be the icing on the cake so to speak.

    6. Keith says:

      Hmm, water warmer than usual? That’s not a normal thing, is it? Might it be related to 100 degree weather in Siberia?

      Not ominous???

    7. chris genute says:

      This cannot be just a random weather event. I live right on the Hudson and see sludge and debris in it every day. Especially when big barges are on it, I see junk on top of the water afterwards. Years ago there were birds around too. this is very depressing. What is the EPA doing about it ?

    8. Kristina Markovic says:

      BULLSHIT that it is because of warming waters. I saw it with my own eyes and have never seen such a thing

    9. Peter Wojcik says:

      Such an atrocity! Has this State agency even considered going out into the field to collect water samples at various points for examination? I could smell the stench from the water today. Summer officially began only a couple weeks ago. Another explanation was offered to me: sewer overflow; unfiltered sewage escaping into the river.

    10. Carol says:

      “Hypoxia can be triggered by large numbers of fish in confined bodies of water…”

      Hey man, we’re talking about the Hudson River here, not someone’s lily pond.

    11. Susan B. Ades says:

      They were up as far as Dobbs Ferry In Westchester yesterday. Dozens floating along the river banks.

    12. mkmuws says:

      “not being visited by another natural disaster”? Tell that to the fish!

    13. Gerald Sider says:

      Is the warm water related to the sewerage treatment plant just upstream? This plant was working at capacity 15-20 years ago, before all the unconstrained building of apartments in the plant’s service area.

    14. HudsonParkLover says:

      The dead fish have floated as far down as Pier 46 and further south. With the heat wave, it is leaving quite an odor in the neighborhood.

    15. Lorene Farnsworth says:

      Bullshit. Hundreds of fish do not die every year as a result of summer, how stupid do they think we are?

      • Dru says:

        Amen!! We need to report this to every environmental agency and the Riverkeeper organization. They need to do a real investigation. This sounds like a governmental bullshit response. I’ve lived a block from the river since ‘93 and I’ve never seen anything like it. Do they think we’re idiots?

        • Kendy Suarez says:

          U are 100% right something is wrong

          • David says:

            I’ve lived here for 20 years.
            We’ve had much warmer and drier Summer streaks and not once have I ever seen dead fish and smelled it even a little bit.
            I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but that’s complete bullshit.
            With what’s going on in the world, do we really think our government is trustworthy right now?
            There is absolutely no way this is a common occurrence around here. We’ve had Summer months where the temps were in the 90s for 10+ days in a row, with no rain, and not one dead fish appeared.
            This is truly complete bs.

    16. Anna V. Carroll says:

      We have dead and dying Fish. Parts of Africa are seeing their Elephants die by the dozens. When the Starlings and Pigeons start falling from the sky you will see me running naked down Broadway. Now THAT won’t be pleasant, I assure you! I am reserving a room at Bellevue any day now.

    17. AC says:

      Wait! You mean this is not Trump’s fault?

      • Donna D says:

        OF COURSE IT IS HIS FAULT!! he has made Mother Nature angry at us and she is showing her fury!

      • MB/UWSer says:

        Well, perhaps contributory?

        Dismissing efforts to help cleanup and support the environment.

    18. GCo says:

      I have seen this in previous years and always take note because it seems to always happen the week of the NYC Triathlon when my fate is to BE in that water for a short of a time as possible. I always assumed it was because the salinity changes.

    19. dannyb says:

      Hmmm… now that I think about it, the Columbia Presbyterian complex uses a hefty chunk of river water for its air conditioning. Might be worth seeing just how hot and oxygen depleted the returned water is.
      Ditto for Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus which was not an issue in past years.
      In fact, with the concerns about Legionalla (Presby had an outbreak a few years ago), might also be worth checking for any chemicals they’ve added to their water loop.

    20. Brian says:

      I saw the central part of a sturgeon floating around 96ths street three weeks ago. Have a photo but can’t figure how to attach it.

    21. Neil says:

      Has anyone tested the fish for corona virus? Seriously!!!

    22. S says:

      I saw the dead fish floating and many more struggling and dying at the surface of the Hudson River and while I’d love to believe it was a natural occurance – wouldn’t it happen every year if it was natural?

      • KHL says:

        I did the same thing. Not hundreds — thousands of dead and dying fish. I thought I’d heard on NPR a report about it, but now I can’t find anything.

    23. UWSer says:

      Took a walk along the river tonight. Dead fish everywhere and it smelled rank.

    24. GM says:

      Yes, today Monday 7/6/20 there were still many floating along the river.
      Such a smell, so sad.

      • Gunneeta says:

        Thousands and thousands of dead fish today in the Hudson in the upper west. Some alive and struggling and about to die. Lot of stench. Very depressing. I’ve never seen this phenomenon past few summers. This is serious. Has something dangerous leaked into the river?

    25. Bertha Bauer, MD says:

      With temperatures rising every year due to climate emergency is line to know if this fish mill is larger than prior years and what temperature changes have occurred in Hudson River over last 10 years in summertime.
      That would be more reassuring rather than dyeing it’s a natural phenomenon.

    26. Scott says:

      Stupid question, can someone clean it up?

    27. Garth says:

      I work next to the piers on 125 street and have seen all the dead a Bunker but have noticed that many of them Have had their head completely removed and cleanly. Does anyone know what fish in the lower Hudson is capable of removing the head of a large bunker in one clean bite? I’m not sure if the head was the goal or if the liver was.