- NEW BERN, N.C. (www.nandotimes.com) - Hundreds of thousands of fish have died
along North Carolina's lower Neuse River in this summer's first major outbreak
of the toxic Pfiesteria microbe, scientists said Wednesday.
- The outbreak has killed an estimated
500,000 fish and is an ominous sign for fisherman and boaters along the
East Coast, where heavy spring rains and a dry summer have made conditions
ripe for emergence of the deadly toxin, scientists said.
- "About half a million fish have
been killed over the past five days, from Saturday through today, and it's
still ongoing," North Carolina State University botanist Howard Glasgow
- The outbreak has covered a seven-mile
stretch of the Neuse River about 15 miles downstream from New Bern in coastal
North Carolina. About half the fish caught in one section of the river
had ulcerated lesions on their skin associated with an active Pfiesteria
outbreak, he said.
- Health officials have not issued any
warnings, but could consider restricting access to the lower part of the
river, which meanders through central North Carolina to the shore, if the
outbreak is not abated by storms expected in the area overnight, Glasgow
- "If the storm doesn't blow this
out, and it continues for a couple of days, (health officials) may decide
to close that section of the river," he said.
- Pfiesteria in recent years has been linked
to several major fish kills on East Coast waterways, where scientists say
the microorganism thrives in nutrients generated by sewage, animal waste
and fertilizers flushed into rivers and streams.
- Scientists say the microbe, first discovered
swarming in a major fish kill on the nearby New River in May 1991, causes
lesions and stupefies fish, and may have similar effects on people exposed
to the toxin.
- This week's fish kill along the Neuse
River confirmed fears that severe winter storms followed by near-drought
conditions this summer along the East Coast could lead to Pfiesteria outbreaks.
- "We knew after the El Nino winter
that we had with the rain and the flooding and the massive nutrient flow
that came downstream that we had to be prepared for (outbreaks) this summer,"
Marion Smith, director of the Neuse River Foundation said.