Mystery: Thousands of dead fish line Jersey shore

MIDDLE TWP., N.J. - August 12, 2010

Officials so far remain mystified over the major wash-up of fish along the Delaware Bay in Cape May County. The investigation is ongoing, but already there is at least one theory by scientists on what may have happened to those fish.

Experts at Rutgers University theorize that the fish were killed by the excessive heat that depleted the oxygen levels in the water.

Investigators will be back out on Thursday to continue the search for an official cause.

The fish, juvenile menhaden, also known as peanut bunker, were washed up on miles of shoreline from the Villas section of Lower Township to Pierce's Point in Middle Twp.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Kristin Bongard of The Villas.

"I have to say hundreds when I first saw them and then it became thousands, and they were floating," added Jeanette Nefaro.

"Just rows and rows of dead fish all the way as far as you can see," said Judy Thompson. "Yesterday they were in the water, they were jumping up, you could see them and there were porpoises out here, I guess they were feeding on them."

Residents say the fish began washing up on shore early Wednesday morning creating a foul smell as they baked in the hot sun.

By early evening, the high tide had washed away most of the dead fish leaving behind a thin line of them along the shoreline.

The state of New Jersey has sent extra conservationists to Cape May County to assess the impact on the beaches. Officials hope to know more Thursday.

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