Large Groups of Fish Found Dead in Hudson River Again; Scientists Testing Samples

Sad sight along the Hudson River this month.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Last July, large numbers of fish were turning up dead in the Hudson River along Riverside Park. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) identified them as Menhaden (also known as bunker), and attributed their demise to overcrowding and the warming of the water.

But now it’s December and it’s happening again, according to a reader who asked us to look into “all the dead fish in the Hudson along Riverside Park. One of the gardeners said they think there is a new oil refinery (?) further up the river and they dump stuff into the river,” she added.

A spokesperson for the DEC, sent the following response.

DEC has received widespread reports of dead and dying Atlantic Menhaden (bunker) in the Hudson River and marine waters.

Report locations range from the Hudson River near Peekskill and south, Staten Island to the North Shore and East End of Long Island.

Die-off events of Menhaden are not unusual and there are various naturally occurring causes for these events. Fish, such as bunker, that swim in large schools are particularly vulnerable to low dissolved oxygen, certain environmental pressures, and pathogens.

In response to the recent events, DEC collected fish samples from the East End of Long Island and Hudson River for analysis by Stony Brook University’s Marine Animal Disease Laboratory (MADL) for further evaluation. Preliminary results of their findings will not be available until the samples are fully processed. DEC continues to monitor the event and requests additional reports and pictures be sent to Additional information will be provided once available.

To report potential spills or other environmental violations contact DEC at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267)

As far as the possibility that an oil refinery is polluting the Hudson, causing the death of the fish, a DEC spokesperson said, “The investigation is ongoing.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Sheila Amato says:

      During my walk along the Hudson River near Tilcon and Harbors at Haverstraw in Rockland County, I counted at least twenty dead fish brought to shore with low tide. What is causing this unfortunate marine event?

    2. Juan says:

      The whole situation sounds very fishy.

    3. B.B. says:

      Menhaden are dying off on both sides of North River and elsewhere along north east coast.

      Likely cause is low levels of oxygen in water caused by many factors but prime reason is linked to sewage overflows caused by heavy rains, and warmer weather.

      It is now first week of December and we’ve had barely any really cold days (below freezing), but many more of temps in 50’s and even low 60’s.

      There has been no snow, but tons of rain often very heavy at times. Snow melts gradually, bu rain (especially in huge amounts all at once) pours down sewers and often causes untreated sewage to enter waterways. This and whatever runs off land that makes its way to bodies of water.

      Climate of NYC area is fast becoming sub-tropical. Our winters are warmer, wetter, and moist. Unless or until this changes in a few more decades or generations entire species that cannot adapt will simply die out

    4. Cry Me a River says:

      Re: “Menhaden are dying off on both sides of North River….”
      Wow! Thanks for referencing the ORIGINAL name of what we call The Hudson River! According to Wikipedia, the NORTH River name dates back to the 17th Century, when this entire area was the Dutch colony of New Netherland, and a teensy trading post at the south end of Mannahatta was Nieuw Amsterdam.
      What is now the Delaware River they called the SOUTH River.

    5. John says:

      How about all the boats leaking Diesel fuel and oil in the river. Hope the green New Deal outlaws boats and yachts that burn fossil fuels. Darn wont happen Kerry owns a 76 foot yacht that creates more carbon then 10 middle class family’s in a year. We wont talk about his many mansions.

      • young_man! says:

        As a boater I would say that we are much more conscious of pollutants in our rivers and oceans than the average finger pointing west sider. As we are up close and personal with the water, we want it as clean as possible and have seen the river improve over the past decades.
        The cruise ship operators who regularly dump raw sewage and fuel.
        As another commenter posted above the reason for this particular event probably has to do largely with the freaky huge sudden downpours that overwhelmed every storm sewer from here to Albany.

    6. Jo says:

      Is this related to the fact that the water tastes bad again?

      • Mark Moore says:

        I would advise that you not taste Hudson River water. The water in your tap doesn’t come from there.

    7. CC in NYC says:

      The real question is, What has changed, to cause the die-off, back in the spring, and now again in November?

      We can rule out warmer temperatures, since it’s obviously warmer in the summer than in spring or fall.

      We can rule out sewage overflows due to excessive rain, since rainfall in November 2020 was two inches below average.

      You don’t have to be a marine biologist to realize that the die-off is due to POLLUTION – probably upstream.

      BTW this is not a Manhattan thing. The die-off was noted on several New Jersey shores too.

      So… IS ANY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY LOOKING INTO THIS? Or are they all taking a snooze?

    8. John tucker says:

      I like to take baths in the hudson river. But this case seems and smells a bit fishy

    9. Melissa Terman says:

      We were on the beach at Croton Point Park walking our dog and there was a preponderance of dead fish like these. Truly upsetting.

    10. Oscar says:

      I found a bunch of dead Bunkers along the Brooklyn bridge park, East River today.

    11. Briant says:

      Does anyone know what those large ships were that were anchored out there for the past week? Looked like oil barges ish… But were there stationary for days around 79th, 96th, and 110th approx.

      • Ira Gershenhorn says:

        Those ships are mostly carrying fuel and what they are doing is very normal and not unusual at all.

        • C. Stickney says:

          For years, I have walked the river daily between 60th and 120th for years and until this year have NEVER seen this parade of barges either moving or stationary.

        • Ryguy says:

          What are they doing out there?

    12. DR says:

      Former UWS resident who hasn’t quite been able to let go of reading the West Side Rag! Live in Tarrytown now and all along the beautiful Riverwalk there were tons of dead fish. I tried to save a few until I realized this was a problem larger than me. 🙁

    13. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      HRECOS monitors dissolved oxygen and so far it seems Haverstraw Bay is a problem but nowhere else assuming the sensors are working. Unfortunately, there are insufficient sensors. There are other possibilities and for that we may have to wait a week. One of my ideas is that when you have a few million of them schooling, you would naturally expect a few dead ones. They don’t live forever do they?

    14. Irate Partisan says:

      The DEC explanation when this happened previously was nonsense.

      It seems far more likely that chemical pollutants are making it into the river, and DEC is doing nothing about it. What’s killing the fish?

    15. C. Stickney says:

      Might the most recent kill off have something to do with the barges that have ostensibly been parked on the river for months? Why are they parked there and when will they leave?

    16. M. Canal says:

      20-30 dead fish daily in the Morris Canal in Jersey City since late November.

    17. tim says:

      coho salmon west coast die off has been attributed to chemical used in car tires to improve the tread

      • Josh P. says:

        “While we often monitor temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, much more could be done to test for toxicity,” said Mariska Obedzinski, a California Sea Grant fisheries biologist who leads monitoring and salmon recovery research on the Russian River and was shocked to see the findings out of Puget Sound.
        The smoking gun turned out to be related to a chemical called 6PPD, which is essentially a preservative to keep car tires from breaking down too quickly. When 6PPD hits the road and reacts with ozone gas, the chemical transforms into multiple new chemicals, including a compound known as 6PPD-quinone.

        We should plant over the West Side Highway and merge it into an expanded Riverside Park. West Siders breathe in tons of pollution so the Westchester crowd can cut a few minutes from their commute.

    18. Lucy Pullen says:

      Swam through two huge schools of menhaden last week very VERY high population – not sure who was more surprised! The low oxygen theory has my vote.

    19. Mary A. Root says:

      Hundreds of dead bunkers along banks of Hudson South of Tappan Zee Bridge. Very disturbing.

    20. Maeve Malone says:

      These fish have been gasping and dying along Brooklyn Bridge Park since last week. I would love to know the cause, whether toxicity or low oxygen, it’s awful to see them flailing helplessly…

    21. Emily says:

      There are piles of dead fish along the shallows around the GWB, but they are largely shed, not Menhaden.

    22. stephen noonan says:

      Could this be covid related? Due to sewage runoff from the Hudson into the Atlantic ? Ran my dog along sandy hook today and loads of dead fish. And a huge barge across from Staten Island with a crane lifting into the water and onto the barge. Any thoughts ?is the dept of environmental protection on this ?

    23. Michael Hamburg says:

      Saw hundreds of dead bunkers near the Verrazano Bridge today, December 7, 2020.

      • sailorMars says:

        Aye, hundreds down by the VZW today too. Seagulls seem to be enjoying the feast. A few dead rats. No dead birds. The bay, the sound and the south shore have been teeming with bunker past couple years. A few recent gales with heavy rain have blown through. Let’s see if the EPA & DEC can do more than collect fees and fines.

    24. Cindi Clark says:

      I’ve been seeing dead fish also along the shore of the West Side Highway, from 34th St, now today up to 42nd St. Watched a fish struggling for life, swimming in circles, upside down, until he just stopped moving. Heartbreaking. What is happening and why?

    25. Daniel Dykhuizen says:

      Is anything known about a large fish kill on West Meadow Beach in Setauket? Been going on for the last three weeks!

      • Marilyn m says:

        I’m also very worried about the hundreds of dead fish at west meadow. Ive been walking that beach for 30 years and have never seen this!!

    26. Nina says:

      I just walked along the east River in Brooklyn and found at least 10 dead fish, too! Something is def. not right and needs to be looked into.

    27. Tom says:

      Last couple of days I have seen dozens and dozens of dead fish on the shores of the Hudson in the Croton on Hudson area

    28. Tanya says:

      Today, I walked from the West 80’s to the West 60’s and there were thousands of dead fish…literally thousands…and that is what is visible on this side of the Hudson. I can only imagine what exists in the rest of the Hudson. It’s so alarming and I hope the birds can’t become ill from eating these poor fish.

    29. Nils says:

      I found a large number of dead menhaden on the beach in Port Jefferson, and found one dying one. I took photos and sent them to the DEC. I’m thinking hypoxic conditions. The water in the marina was extremely clear.

    30. steven says:

      There are still lots of dead fish on the banks of the west side of Manhattan today. I believe they are bunker: black on top, silver on the underside, about 8 inches long. I’d like to know the reason. Some fish do spawn and die, but in December? Maybe it’s too warm or lacking oxygen. The water seemed clear otherwise.

    31. Marianne says:

      Now on December 11th there are many more thousands of dead and dying fish in the Hudson. You smell the carcasses all the way up to Riverside Drive. It looks like a scene out of an apocalyptic sci-fi. I’ve reached out to the EPA, only to get an Email back saying “the investigation is still ongoing”. This is an environmental catastrophe, an urgent matter, you don’t hear anything on the news about it. What about the ecosystem that is jeopardized? What happens to the seagulls that eat the fish and other organisms?There must be some really bad toxicity in the Hudson. And seeing those fish twitching and swimming in frantic circles gasping for air as they’re dying is horrific. Don’t know who else to reach out to…

    32. Carole says:

      I have been seeing these fish along the shore of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Some of the fish swim in circles and some gulp for air amid the already dead fish. It has now spread down to pier 6. A park ranger told me it was due to lack of O2 in the water.