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50,000 Menhaden and other species of fish killed near Baltimore after sewage leak

By on June 14, 2022 0

Maryland Department of Environment investigators suspect a broken sewer pipe that spilled 11,000 gallons of waste into a tributary of Marley Creek contributed to a massive fish kill south of Baltimore.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Daniel Macleod, 70, of Glen Burnie was at a marina in Marley Creek on June 7 when he spotted thousands of dead fish floating in a channel. He took pictures and contacted the Maryland DNR. But hours later, the fish was gone, presumably drifting downstream toward the Chesapeake Bay. Marley Creek feeds the Patapsco River, which empties into the upper Chesapeake Bay.

MNR had not previously been notified of a fish kill. But the next afternoon, agency inspectors discovered the dead fish Macleod had reported. The fish killed were primarily Atlantic menhaden, but at least eight other species of fish have also been identified, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The fish kill occurred less than a week after 11,000 gallons of sewage leaked from a broken pipe in Glen Burnie into a tributary of Marley Creek on June 2. MDE officials say the fish kills likely resulted in low oxygen levels in the water resulting in sewage spilling.

MDE spokesman Jay Apperson told the Baltimore Sun that the fish likely died from “anoxic bottom water intrusion”, caused when water containing little oxygen rises at low tide and suffocates the fish.

MDE believes the spill created a phytoplankton bloom in Marley Creek which eventually led to the bloom decomposing which removes needed oxygen from the water and is deadly to fish.

All about the bunker

Menhaden, also known as bunker, mossbunker, pogy, bug-head, and fat back, is a popular baitfish for saltwater anglers. Stripers can’t resist the oily smell of menhaden. These fish also play an essential role in the food chain of the marine ecosystem. They feed by filtering phytoplankton and zooplankton from the water they live in and are in turn eaten by predatory fish like stripes, swordfish and tuna.

The menhaden is the first species, in volume, harvested along the Atlantic coast and the second on the Pacific. The average bunker is about 15 inches.