For many of us living in and around Eastern North Carolina we know too well how a localized hurricane can negatively affect marine life in our rivers and streams. Hurricane Irene was no exception. With field reports showing low to zero oxygen levels within the Chowan, Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse rivers and their tributaries, a dreaded fish kill is imminent.
“Our biologists reported dissolved oxygen levels of 0 mg/L in all Chowan River creeks north of Holiday Island. Investigations will continue in tributaries of the Tar River (0.5 mg/L) and Neuse River (1.5 mg/L) as flood waters subside in these basins.” – Chad Thomas, Coastal Fisheries Supervisor NCWRC
As we await a final outcome I will post regular updates regarding the effects of hurricane Irene on our coastal rivers as more data is collected and provided by North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) biologists and field staff.
Marine devastation of this magnitude is nothing new to this region as hurricane Isabelle proved in 2003. For more than a week, oxygen levels were near zero in the Roanoke and Chowan rivers resulting in massive fish kills. Through funding from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program, the NCWRC implemented an experimental, multi-phase largemouth bass stocking effort in 2004 to determine whether localized population recovery could be achieved. Annual samples were taken in the affected areas to determine the effectiveness of the restocking program. Links to two reports from this program are below.