Sandy’s Other Toll: Fish Out Of Water

Friday, November 16, 2012

More than two weeks after Sandy devastated lives across New York and New Jersey, one strange reminder of the storm has come to light: a mass of dead fish near commuter rail train tracks in New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

Kevin Meyers first spotted the fish on Wednesday, the first day New Jersey Transit train service was restored to his home station in Montclair.

“As we got to Kearney, which is where I had read so much of the devastation had hit the New Jersey Transit infrastructure, I was specifically looking out the window to see if I could see any evidence of that.” Meyers said.

At first, there was nothing. Just train tracks plowing through a familiar sea of swamp grass.

“But as we approached the New Jersey Turnpike, I noticed that there was in a ditch alongside the train tracks probably about a hundred or so of the exact same looking fish baking in the sun,” Meyers said.

They weren’t living fish, but dead fish, stranded on land.

“There’s thousands of fishes in these ditches all over the place,” said Francisco Artigas, director of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute.

Artigas said Meyers’ supposition, that Sandy killed the fish, is correct.  When Sandy arrived, sea-water flooded the marshes, reaching five feet higher than the highest recorded tides, and that lifted everything in its path.

“When this surge retreated then, a lot of these animals were caught off guard in shallow water and weren’t able to make it back,” said Artigas, adding that these fish are almost all carp, bottom feeders, which tend to get trapped when water rises and then quickly recedes.

“Until today there are some ponds and certain football fields where the fish are there. Eventually they will have nowhere to go, it will dry up and they will die,” Artigas said.

Artigas said the storm surge doesn’t appear to have changed the Meadowlands’ ecology. As to the destruction of carp – an invasive species – it may even be a good thing.


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Comments [4]

those are definitely not catfish.

Nov. 17 2012 03:21 PM

Ahhhh, the oft maligned but rarely understood carp.

Carp are no longer invasive, while some carp eggs have come over on cargo from abroad, carp were introduced intentionally 200 years ago across the US. I've fished and hunted in four major regions of the US for almost 25 years, and I can tell you I have never seen a growing carp population "invade" and decimate a fish population, which is more than I can say for the "German trout," aka the Brown Trout, which truly does compete with rainbows and other trout, yet is one of the most highly sought-after game fish in the country! It appears that color matters even in angling.

Deer were also non-native 'invasive' species intentionally introduced, and people claim deer are much more invasive in places like Staten Island than carp ever could be.

A particular kind of carp - grass carp - also consume weeds, although if the meadowlands were to dry out and become a grassy field that would be ok by nature, too. It's the metals, agent orange, petroleum, and handguns we need to worry about, not carp.

Nov. 17 2012 03:18 PM
FredK from Scotch Plains NJ

I am skeptical that the density of catfish is so high that local stranded puddles would produce the pictured mass of fish. An alternative hypothesis that should be explored is that the incoming surge of ocean water suddenly increased the salinity of normally brackish Passaic/Hackensack delta and that the freshwater catfish were killed in place and subsequently deposited on the newly created "shoreline." I don't know what species of catfish has invaded the Meadowlands, but a cursory Google search shows numbers of scholarly papers attesting to the lethality of seawater to many catfish species.

Nov. 17 2012 10:13 AM
VMGillen from Elm Park, Staten Island

On the north-west shore of Staten Island a chain link fence was knocked down by the rush of water - and there were many, many fish stuck in the links - it acted as a sort of gill net.

Nov. 17 2012 08:04 AM

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