Park manager explains dead fish found at Huntington Beach State Park pond

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 9:06 PM EDT
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MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina’s state parks are known for offering opportunities for the community to connect with nature and while these opportunities are usually positive, over the last few weeks, several people raised concerns about dead fish at a pond in Huntington Beach State Park.

A Grand Strand photographer, Jeffery Neville said the water at Mullet Pond is often hot and has dead fish, shrimp and crabs floating in it.

“Sad,” said Neville. “It’s so sad.”

Neville has been documenting the dead fish for years. Photos he said can be shocking to many people.

“I’m seeing fish floating on top of the water, and shrimp floating on top of the water,” said Neville. “The question is why?”

Huntington Beach State Park Manager Brenda Majors said Mullet Pond was built nearly 100 years ago. Majors said Mr. Huntington had a vision for the pond to protect and conserve species of migratory waterfowl that were endangered in the 1930s.

The water in Mullet Pond only reaches about 9 inches at its deepest. A shallow pond allows the birds to feed easily while passing through during migration. Majors said some birds that stop at the pond to eat will fly all the way to Canada.

Mullet Pond uses a delicate cycle of salt water from a marsh and fresh water from the rain to create the perfect environment for birds to easily eat. Majors said this cycle can be difficult to balance.

“The challenge to ponds like this is managing oxygen, salinity, and temperature.”

Majors explained that people might have seen dead fish because the balance of the pond water was off.

“The oxygen was just low and the pond was up to 90 degrees,” said Majors.

Many visitors to the state park have seen the dead fish but photographer, Jeanni Soderstrom has been capturing photos of fish and birds in the park for over three years. She said she’s heard of what some call the “Mullet Pond Fish Massacre”, but she’s never seen it herself.

“I haven’t seen dead fish. Nope, I have not,” said Soderstrom.

While killing fish is not the state park goal, Majors said sometimes nature is just a feast or famine.

The fish that do die from the hot and salty water end up being eaten by birds and alligators.

While they can manually let saltwater in from the marsh, Majors said the only thing that can solve this issue naturally is fresh water.

“What we really need is rain.”

The park said it will continue to take weekly readings of the water chemistry and work with its team to manage the water.