State environmental officials say thousands of dead fish have washed up in a New Jersey shore community.
The adult menhaden, also known as bunker, were found Saturday in creeks and bays in Oceanport that are part of the Shrewsbury River estuary in Monmouth County.
Officials say the deaths occurred after a large school of menhaden were pursued by predatory fish and depleted the oxygen from the shallow water.
Officials took water samples and confirmed low dissolved oxygen in the creeks. Local crews were working to remove as many of the fish as possible, while the rest will decompose and eventually sink.
A fishing guide told APP.com that a lower than normal tide cause by stiff winds helped push water away from an already shallow area.
Menhaden are small schooling fish that play a vital role in the ocean food web. They are also harvested commercially for fish oil and used as aquaculture feed.
There have been multiple bunker fish kills in New Jersey due to various reasons in the last decade.
A notable incident occurred in August 2016 in the Raritan Bay and its tributaries. Officials said the likely cause was low dissolved oxygen. Later that month, thousands of dead bunker were discovered floating in Little Egg Harbor lagoons.
In January 2015, more than 5,000 bunker fish died in a discharge canal at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township.
State officials said the fish were possibly drawn to canal’s warm water or were chased by a predator.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.