NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of dead fish washed up in a New Jersey creek this week, state officials said.

The fish, which were discovered in Waackaack Creek in the borough of Keansburg, are commonly known as peanut bunker, a name that describes immature specimens of the Atlantic menhaden, a common saltwater fish.

Bob Considine, a spokesman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection, said the fish may have been chased into the waterway by pursuing predators and then suffocated because the water did not hold enough dissolved oxygen to support them.

But he said it was hard to know precisely how the fish ended up in the creek.


"Obviously we can't interview the fish," he said.

The fish first washed up on Monday and have been carried in and out on the tide, Considine said.

"It's hard to miss," he said.

Fish kills, as the phenomenon is known, occur once or twice a year, particularly in the summer months when the heat lowers the amount of oxygen in the water, Considine said.

Last week, Montana wildlife officials took the drastic step of closing more than 150 miles (241.4 km) of the Yellowstone River after a parasite killed tens of thousands of fish along what is a popular destination for fly fishing.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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