Cornell investigates reports of an abundance of dead fish washing ashore on the Hudson this season


Photo posted to Piermont NY Facebook group by Annadora Perillo
Photo posted to Piermont NY Facebook group by Annadora Perillo

Many who live near or boat on the Hudson River in Rockland and Westchester County say they’ve never seen quite the abundance of dead fish along the shoreline as they have this season.

Capt. Mary Pat Driscoll, who runs the tour boat Evening Star, said she has been “seeing this quite a bit on my cruises between Peekskill’s Riverfront Green Park and West Point over the past two weeks,” she said.

“We (among others) alerted (state) DEC biologists of the issue and they have collected several fish, which are being analyzed by a fish lab at Cornell/Ithaca,” Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb said. “They fish are mostly Bunker (Menhaden) but some other species are also dying. (It’s) very upsetting.”

DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach said “the agency is currently awaiting results from the lab at Cornell University, so nothing to report at this time.”

While Driscoll said she doesn’t smell anything odd, and none of the fish she’s seen between the Bear Mountain Bridge and Peekskill Bay seem rotten.

“Most are recently dead,” she said. “I’ve even seen a few alive but swimming slowly in circle, upside down. Most are small slivery fish, only one large one that looked like a carp and maybe unrelated to the issue.”

Riverkeeper has gotten up to three calls daily since Mother’s Day Eve about dead fish from Peekskill south to New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound.

“I’m not a great fan of the bridge project; however, neither Riverkeeper nor I am ready to place blame on it, the Indian Point transformer, or anything until we hear from Cornell,” Lipscomb said. He noted another cause may be saline water, since there were no reports north of Peekskill or Bear Mountain.

An abundance of dead fish (white perch) occurred 10 years ago when the spring die-off was widely distributed. “We worked closely with DEC marine biologists and sent specimens to the same (Cornell) lab,” he said.

Driscoll noticed “that the seagulls will see them floating, pick them up and then drop them again. They won’t eat the dead ones. I’m hoping the DEC can determine to cause so we know whether it was preventable or a natural occurrence.”


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