Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
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.