STAMFORD, Conn. — Stamford resident Marge Pavlov saw an unusual and disturbing sight on a morning walk near Czescik Marina — more than a dozen dead fish floating in the water.
They were 15 to 20 Menhaden, which are better known as bunker fish. Later, Pavlov learned she wasn't the only one who noticed signs of the small fish kill in Stamford Harbor.
One of her friends also observed dead fish in the branch of the Rippowam river behind her apartment, “which is a bit of the ways from the harbor.”
Pavlov said the second observation suggests that dead fish might have washed up in other areas.
“It isn’t just isolated to the harbor — its this branch that comes from the Sound,” Pavlov said. “And then that’s when I became concerned.”
Pavlov said she was surprised and saddened by the sight of the dead fish. “Your heart goes out because you can’t help them, and you don’t know what’s causing it," she said.
David Molnar, a fisheries biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has some possible explanations. Too many bunker fish might have populated the waterway, he said. The fish are ubiquitous in the area.
“They’re the most common abundant fish in the Sound,” Molnar said.
If they’re too close together, they can compete for oxygen “so that stresses them,” he said.
The fish can also fall prey to predators, which force them into small areas such the area “and they literally become trapped” in small areas of the harbor,he said.
Molnar said the fish kill in Stamford was relatively small. He said it only appears that 15 to 20 have washed up based on the photo.
Molnar said these fish kills are common and are happening up and down the coast. He doesn’t think the fish kill was caused by poor water quality as only one species — the bunker — has been involved.
Regardless of the cause, the fish kill has stymied Pavlov. “I haven’t seen anything like this before,” she said.