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Letter: Fish kill wasn't 'catastrophe'

Thousands of dead bunker fish cover the shore

Thousands of dead bunker fish cover the shore at Indian Island County Park Beach in Riverhead on Sunday, May 30, 2015. Credit: Randee Daddona

The editorial "Dead fish tell us: This is a crisis" [June 2] needs to have better scientific advice and analysis.

This year's weather cycle and the natural, normal ecological interplay along coastlines should not "Chicken Little" us into panic mode.

These fish kills, including the recent deaths of thousands of baitfish in the Peconic Estuary, were not directly related to nitrogen in the water. The fish kill "catastrophe" can be directly related to natural and normal seasonal interactions in the shallow bays of Long Island that occur each year in the transition from spring to summer.

This past winter was exceedingly cold, and air and water temperatures remained lower than normal from February through late May. We experienced a modest drought this spring, and warm days in late May, followed by rain, which promoted the bloom conditions.

Freshwater algal blooms discharged and provided increased nitrogen, along with other nutrients found in surface runoff from lawn fertilizers. This year's crop of bunker was outstanding. Striped bass and other predatory fish drive baitfish into shallow waters. The sheer number of fish exceeded the carrying capacity of shallow inlets, and the system was naturally depleted of oxygen. It's unfortunate, but it's wrong to blame wastewater, septic discharges and nitrogen.

John T. Tanacredi, Rockville Centre

Editor's note: The writer is a professor of earth and environmental studies and director of the Molloy College Center for Environmental Research and Coastal Oceans Monitoring.