By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank officials this week called on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to host a virtual town hall meeting to address concerns about a fish kill the agency has called the “most severe” in recent memory.
At its semimonthly meeting Wednesday night, the borough council adopted a resolution that echoes a demand by Clean Ocean Action that the DEP provide a live forum for questions and concerns about the fish kill.
The die-off of Atlantic menhaden, also known as bunker, in recent months has left the banks of the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers littered with reeking fish carcasses.
“This was the first 80-degree day we’ve had, and the odor was just horrible,” Brian Donohue of Bank Street told the council.
Proposed by Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, the resolution says the borough “has received calls and emails from many concerned citizens who are alarmed and looking for answers on this environmental problem.”
In addition to the call for a town hall, the measure asks the DEP “to provide immediate financial and/or operational support to all shoreline communities dealing with the increasing menhaden die-off along their respective waterfronts and beaches.”
The town “would have to expend substantial municipal resources to mitigate the noxious smells and difficult clean-up associated with a fish kill of such size,” it said, after a correction of the original version said the town “has expended” resources.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said he had been fielding calls about the matter.
“We are somewhat constrained as a municipality, because the enforcement has to come from the DEP” said Menna. “What this does it is it puts Red Bank squarely, as well as other municipalities, in asking the DEP to please, urgently look at the issue and give it some prioritized attention.”
Triggiano said she hoped other towns might adopt the resolution as well.
Earlier this week, in response to conversations with Clean Ocean Action officials, the DEP posted answers to frequently asked questions about the issue.
The agency attributes the fish kill to a bacterium that for unknown reasons is targeting menhaden.
“At this time, since no other species have been observed impacted, we do not believe that other fish and wildlife are being impacted,” the FAQ says.
Humans are advised to avoid handling the dead or diseased fish, or do so with gloves or protective equipment. “Diseased or dead fish should not be consumed by humans and these fish should not be handled to be utilized as bait for other marine species,” it said.
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