About 40 bluefish washed up on the boat ramp and shore in front of Beach Street Park in Keyport on Wednesday, May 28, according to N.Y./N.J. Baykeeper Executive Director Debbie Mans.
Mans said she contacted both the Monmouth County Board of Health and N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and that both agencies are gong to investigate the situation.
Unlike the bunker fish, also known as the man hadon, the bluefish are hearty fish, said resident Rich Zsuffer.
Having lived in the borough for 15 years, Zsuffer said he has never seen dead bluefish wash up on shore before. “Very rarely do you see [bluefish] die,” he said.
Zsuffer said bluefish are large fish, about 24 inches long and weighing anywhere from five to seven pounds.
He said most of the dead fish that had washed up were whole, but some of the carcasses had been filleted.
Zsuffer said the fish were probably dumped illegally during the night, most likely the wasteful remains of a fishing trip.
The fisherman said he recalled the last mass killing of bunker fish about a year ago. Zsuffer said that particular fish is a staple, often used for bait, and it is common to see a kill of them washed up.
“This is very odd,” Zsuffer said, referring to the bluefish. “It kind of ruins everything around here, [especially with the new boat ramp].”
Mans said the department of health does routine water sampling and would be able to see if the water’s oxygen level was low, which Mans said is one reason the bluefish could have died.
Zsuffer said the bluefish do not need a lot of oxygen to survive.
“It’s strange,” Mans said. “If [the fish] were dumped, that’s so senseless.”
Mans said the county health department did not say if the dead fish left on the shore were harmful.
The Baykeeper said she did find out it was the responsibility of the municipality to clean up the fish. Given the scavengers in the area, she said other animals would probably make quick work of the remains.
As for the dead fish, Zsuffer said it was sad. “That’s it,” he concluded.
PHOTO: Melissa L. Gaffney