1,000 Dead Fish on Cape Cod: When Will the Killer be Brought to Justice?

Cynthia Liebman

I was disheartened, but not surprised, to read news accounts of a massive fish kill earlier this week on Cape Cod.  Over 1,000 fish turned belly-up in a river that feeds into a bay along the south shore of Cape Cod.  The mystery here is not so much about what caused this devastation, but how quickly the fix will come. And why more people aren’t up in arms about the problem?

The culprit is well-known to most who live on the Cape – septic systems leach nitrogen through the sandy soil and into coastal rivers and bays. This, in turn, feeds runaway algae and plant growth that robs fish of oxygen and wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. The nitrogen puts valuable shellfish beds at risk, too. Scientific reports show the problem is growing. Year after year, the upper reaches of many bays along Cape Cod (including coastal rivers) are being overtaken by unsightly, smelly algae.

Memories of cleaner waters…

The algae-clogged waterways I have learned of from CLF members and scientific reports are a far cry from what I remember.  My family’s vacations to Cape Cod were among our best ever, and not just because of the mini-golf and plentiful ice cream.  We played in a salt pond for hours on a giant inflatable turtle. We learned to swim in the bays’ gentle waves. We dug for clams in the tidal flats, and explored rivers and creeks.

Do you have similar memories? Maybe you want to make sure the bays stay pristine, for your own children or grandchildren. That is one reason we at CLF are working hard to address this problem.

What is being done?

Right now, residents and town officials in the 15 towns on Cape Cod are making crucial decisions about how to deal with the nitrogen problem. Septic systems in many places will have to go, or be upgraded. Yes, this will be expensive. Some federal and state funds are available to help. By account of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, 43% of the Cape’s economy is driven by tourism, and shellfish beds bring in additional revenue.   What would be the price of losing the gorgeous blue water, clean sand, and healthy shellfish that so many of us have come to love?

Click here learn more about our Cape Cod advocacy. And weigh in!

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16 Responses to “1,000 Dead Fish on Cape Cod: When Will the Killer be Brought to Justice?”

  1. The crisis was all forseeable, I personally began my cruisade almost 2 decades ago as I watched the water quality in the bay where I grew up suffer from non-point source pollution. My fear was that someday if this continued we would see fish kills and algae based nightmares. The response from most officials that I went to with our crisis, was to dismiss our concerns with the comment that we didn’t know what we were looking at and that we needed the science to prove there was a problem. They all believed that there wasn’t a problem. Now there is no avoiding the issue, unfortunately for countless aquatic species. I finally realized that no-one else was taking this seriously and that it just had to be done.

    We did document the science independently through the Lewis Bay Research Center, which I am proud to report received no local, state, or federal support in our efforts only private donations from other concerned citizens. And now the most definitive proof is being brought for by mother nature herself.

    Now we are moving on to help grassroot community efforts streamline the process and save money on the solutions which will be critical as we move toward progress. Our belief is that we must deal with the ecosystems in a holistic, watershed based way. The reason we are in this trouble is because the old systems had failed, it’s time for a more enlightened approach. Unfortunately, many of the people we look to for the answers are just pulling the same old books off the shelf, and that’s how we got into the problem.

  2. The crisis was all forseeable, I personally began my cruisade almost 2 decades ago as I watched the water quality in the bay where I grew up suffer from non-point source pollution. My fear was that someday if this continued we would see fish kills and algae based nightmares. The response from most officials that I went to with our crisis, was to dismiss our concerns with the comment that we didn’t know what we were looking at and that we needed the science to prove there was a problem. They all believed that there wasn’t a problem. Now there is no avoiding the issue, unfortunately for countless aquatic species. I finally realized that no-one else was taking this seriously and that it just had to be done.

    We did document the science independently through the Lewis Bay Research Center, which I am proud to report received no local, state, or federal support in our efforts only private donations from other concerned citizens. And now the most definitive proof is being brought for by mother nature herself.

    Now we are moving on to help grassroot community efforts streamline the process and save money on the solutions which will be critical as we move toward progress. Our belief is that we must deal with the ecosystems in a holistic, watershed based way. The reason we are in this trouble is because the old systems had failed, it’s time for a more enlightened approach. Unfortunately, many of the people we look to for the answers are just pulling the same old books off the shelf, and that’s how we got into the problem.

  3. The crisis was all forseeable, I personally began my cruisade almost 2 decades ago as I watched the water quality in the bay where I grew up suffer from non-point source pollution. My fear was that someday if this continued we would see fish kills and algae based nightmares. The response from most officials that I went to with our crisis, was to dismiss our concerns with the comment that we didn’t know what we were looking at and that we needed the science to prove there was a problem. They all believed that there wasn’t a problem. Now there is no avoiding the issue, unfortunately for countless aquatic species. I finally realized that no-one else was taking this seriously and that it just had to be done.

    We did document the science independently through the Lewis Bay Research Center, which I am proud to report received no local, state, or federal support in our efforts only private donations from other concerned citizens. And now the most definitive proof is being brought for by mother nature herself.

    Now we are moving on to help grassroot community efforts streamline the process and save money on the solutions which will be critical as we move toward progress. Our belief is that we must deal with the ecosystems in a holistic, watershed based way. The reason we are in this trouble is because the old systems had failed, it’s time for a more enlightened approach. Unfortunately, many of the people we look to for the answers are just pulling the same old books off the shelf, and that’s how we got into the problem.

  4. The crisis was all forseeable, I personally began my cruisade almost 2 decades ago as I watched the water quality in the bay where I grew up suffer from non-point source pollution. My fear was that someday if this continued we would see fish kills and algae based nightmares. The response from most officials that I went to with our crisis, was to dismiss our concerns with the comment that we didn’t know what we were looking at and that we needed the science to prove there was a problem. They all believed that there wasn’t a problem. Now there is no avoiding the issue, unfortunately for countless aquatic species. I finally realized that no-one else was taking this seriously and that it just had to be done.

    We did document the science independently through the Lewis Bay Research Center, which I am proud to report received no local, state, or federal support in our efforts only private donations from other concerned citizens. And now the most definitive proof is being brought for by mother nature herself.

    Now we are moving on to help grassroot community efforts streamline the process and save money on the solutions which will be critical as we move toward progress. Our belief is that we must deal with the ecosystems in a holistic, watershed based way. The reason we are in this trouble is because the old systems had failed, it’s time for a more enlightened approach. Unfortunately, many of the people we look to for the answers are just pulling the same old books off the shelf, and that’s how we got into the problem.

  5. Elise Hugus

    People may be interested to know that the DMF tested the fish found in Buzzards Bay in late August and ascertained that they had been dumped. Independent scientists verified that the dissolved oxygen content of the water was not low enough to create a fish kill. While nitrogen is indeed a serious problem, and this incident should probably be studied over time, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. See the Falmouth or Bourne Enterprise of August 28.

  6. Elise Hugus

    People may be interested to know that the DMF tested the fish found in Buzzards Bay in late August and ascertained that they had been dumped. Independent scientists verified that the dissolved oxygen content of the water was not low enough to create a fish kill. While nitrogen is indeed a serious problem, and this incident should probably be studied over time, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. See the Falmouth or Bourne Enterprise of August 28.

  7. Elise Hugus

    People may be interested to know that the DMF tested the fish found in Buzzards Bay in late August and ascertained that they had been dumped. Independent scientists verified that the dissolved oxygen content of the water was not low enough to create a fish kill. While nitrogen is indeed a serious problem, and this incident should probably be studied over time, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. See the Falmouth or Bourne Enterprise of August 28.

  8. Elise Hugus

    People may be interested to know that the DMF tested the fish found in Buzzards Bay in late August and ascertained that they had been dumped. Independent scientists verified that the dissolved oxygen content of the water was not low enough to create a fish kill. While nitrogen is indeed a serious problem, and this incident should probably be studied over time, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. See the Falmouth or Bourne Enterprise of August 28.

  9. Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

  10. Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

  11. Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

  12. Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

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