A massive fishkill in the Shinnecock Canal in November has left up to 2,000 tons of dead fish on bay beaches fronting some of the most exclusive residences on Long Island.
Marshes and beaches along Meadow Lane in Southampton Village are the scene this week of a controlled clean up led by a Hampton Bays fisherman who previously helped the town of Riverhead avert a similar disaster by harvesting tons of live menhaden in the Peconic River this spring.
“It’s pretty gross,” said William Caldwell, who is working with a crew of two other men to move the dead fish from beaches using pitchforks into a waiting Bobcat. The fish are to be taken to a landfill.
Caldwell said he worked for the Town of Southampton for three days carting away fish, with a budget of around $7,000, and now is working for the Village of Southampton, where the job is considerably larger.
He said he took 40 tons of dead fish, also known as bunker, from town beaches and already has taken around 40 tons from village beaches along Meadow Lane where he can work without a state permit.
“There’s probably 2,000 tons of fish” to remove, he said. “This is a lot of fish to move.”
The fish suffocated after being trapped in locks in the Shinnecock Canal on Nov. 14. State officials said the large number of fish entering the canal at a single time depleted oxygen. The canal shone silver with dead fish, which then moved into the Shinnecock Bay.
Caldwell said the bunker are primarily visible from a section of beach near a helicopter landing pad used by residents of Meadow Lane, to points east. Most of the fish are on the bay side of Meadow Lane. The Southampton roadway is home to such notables such as Calvin Klein and businessman David Koch, though most of their homes front the ocean.
Officials with Southampton Town and village didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.