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100,000 menhaden likely died of suffocation near Rehoboth Bay

Staff reporter/Del.Online

An estimated 100,000 menhaden may have suffocated in a stagnant creek off north Rehoboth Bay, state environmental officials reported late Monday.

Officials said the kill could have happened late Sunday or early Monday.

The fish apparently died in a boat lagoon near the mouth of Arnell Creek, near Old Landing Country Club. Larger fish kills have occurred in the same area in past years, in most cases traced to low oxygen levels in dead-end or slow-moving water.

Artificially deepened lagoons off the Inland Bays occasionally become death traps for schooling menhaden and other bay creatures, especially during the summer months.

Fed by high levels of pollutants from suburban yards, farms and septic systems, algae and microbe populations grow, then collapse as oxygen levels plummet, temporarily making the water uninhabitable.

The Arnell Creek fish kill was believed unrelated to the deaths of a million or more Atlantic croaker in late July off the ocean beaches of southernmost Delaware and Maryland. Scientists tentatively blamed abrupt shoreward movements of intensely cold water for killing the croakers.

Young menhaden number in the billions along the coastline, and are one of the anchors for aquatic food chains supporting most larger fish and other aquatic life. Menhaden also are harvested widely as bait for recreational and commercial fishing.
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