by Marcy Norton
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Over the weekend, officials in Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey had the stinky task of removing tens of thousand of small, dead fish from the Osborne Island area.
Workers vacuumed up about 20,000 of the young menhaden floating in Great Bay and dumped them in landfills.
Seems like an environmental disaster, but The fish kill was not the result of pollution or other man-made conditions.
"This is just part of a natural system that's really important to the ecology of the estuaries," said Lawrence Hajna of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
He says the young fish travel in large schools, and were likely chased in to the bay by predators and became trapped in the oxygen-depleted, warm water.
While 20,000 sounds like a lot of dead fish, Hajna says these are very abundant, and there's no fear of them becoming endangered.
"The fact that we have so many of these fish is a sign of a very healthy ecosystem," he said.
In fact, they're the largest commercially fished species on the east coast, used for items like dog food and fish oil supplements.
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