An increasing number of fish kills like the four that occurred in New Jersey this past week are in the state’s future if officials don’t take steps to improve the water quality, environmentalists warned.

The die-off of more than a million peanut bunker since Aug. 22 along the waterways of Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay in Monmouth County and Great Bay in Ocean County were caused by a lack of sufficient levels of oxygen for the fish to survive. But human activities on land have helped contribute to that oxygen deficiency, said L. Stanton Hales, director of the Barnegat Bay Partnership.

Hales, who has studied New Jersey’s waterways for more than two decades, said that while fish kills caused by low dissolved oxygen levels are naturally occurring events, they are now exacerbated by the deteriorating conditions of the state’s waterways.

“These things can happen naturally, but they’re made worse by everything we’re doing (on land),” he said.

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