Pathologists get to the bottom of recent dead fish epidemic

BY JANIE ROSMAN

Cornell University has determined that thousands of the Atlantic Menhaden (Bunker) were killed by natural causes (a virus); the lab currently aims to identify exactly which virus it was  (Photo posted to Piermont NY Facebook group by Annadora Perillo)
Cornell University has determined that thousands of the Atlantic Menhaden (Bunker) were killed by natural causes (a virus); the lab currently aims to identify exactly which virus it was (Photo posted to Piermont NY Facebook group by Annadora Perillo)

The fish pathology lab at Cornell University determined the primary species of dead fish recently found in the Hudson River were Atlantic Menhaden and were “killed by natural causes, most likely a virus, and not anything associated with the bridge project,” DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach told the Rockland County Times.

Rosenbach said the lab “is currently attempting to identify” which virus killed the fish, locally known as Bunker, and that “an estimated several thousand” were affected.

From mid-May through mid-June, the DEC received calls from the public reporting dead and dying fish in the lower Hudson River.

Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb said last month the dead fish were mostly the species identified by the DEC “but some other species are also dying. (It’s) very upsetting.” The watchdog group alerted DEC biologists.

Capt. Mary Pat Driscoll, who runs the tour boat Evening Star, also noticed “quite a bit” of dead fish last month on her cruises between Peekskill’s Riverfront Green Park and West Point and that seagulls picked them up and dropped them, refusing to eat them.

“I’m hoping the DEC can determine the cause so we know whether it was preventable or a natural occurrence,” Driscoll said earlier.