HOBOKEN - Residents taking in the "open street" along Sinatra Drive on Hoboken's Waterfront this weekend were greeted by the disturbing sight and smell of dead fish. Social media was abuzz with people asking why and how such a volume of fish could be washing up on the shoreline at the mouth of the Hudson River.

According to Riverkeeper, a grassroots organization monitoring area waterways, "The widespread deaths of Atlantic menhaden, and possibly other species, are most likely the result of prolonged heat and lack of rain, combined with other factors, which reduce levels of dissolved oxygen that the fish need to survive."

The organization says, "Low oxygen (hypoxia) or no oxygen (anoxia) can also occur in water bodies when excess organic materials, such as large algal blooms, are decomposed by microorganisms. During this decomposition process, oxygen in the water is consumed."

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Heavy rains forecasted over the next few days will likely offer some relief to the situation.

"When we get a series of rainstorms or cloudy days, we’ll see lower water temperatures and less algae growth, and we’re likely to see a reduction of fish mortality as oxygen returns to adequate levels."

Nevertheless, the fragility of the ecosystem and the impact of human existence along the river—specifically sewage and fertilizer runoff—lead to spikes in phytoplankton, which stifle the amount of oxygen in the river. Combined with an absence of organisms such as oysters that filter out phytoplankton nutrients.

"We should consider this yet another warning that we need to restore the baseline health of the Hudson and New York Harbor in the face of climate change and ever-increasing global water temperatures," says Riverkeeper.

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