Out of all the disgusting things you could potentially find in the Gowanus Canal — the muddy, polluted waterway that runs through Brooklyn — a three-eyed catfish is perhaps the strangest.
In the video, Hunter approaches a flannel-clad fisherman on a bridge overlooking the canal.
“Hey man,” Hunter opens the video. “Those people down there just told me you found a — you got a catfish? Three eyes?”
The fisherman nods and points down to the catfish. A third eye was clearly visible in the center of its forehead.
The Gowanus Canal itself lends this story some credibility. Once Brooklyn’s main industrial artery, it’s now one of the most contaminated waterways in the US, if not the world.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, dozens of factories lined the banks of the canal, all illegally dumping waste — everything from raw sewage to storm runoff, and even the byproducts of the booming coal supply industry.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency designated the canal a
Superfund site, deeming it so contaminated and hazardous to humans that it’s now a priority for the federal government to clean up.
Following that, a 2012 report by New York City’s EPA found a host of toxic chemicals in the canal, including lead, mercury, carcinogenic PCBs, pesticides, and dangerous levels of nitrogen, according to the New York Times.
While Gowanus may seem like prime breeding grounds for a three-eyed catfish, some journalists and scientists are more than a bit sceptical.
John Waldman, a biology professor at Queens College told the New York Times that the catfish in the video isn’t even a saltwater species — and the Gowanus is far too salty for that particular species to thrive.
Waldman also thought that the fish appeared dead. Catfish can live for hours on dry land, so if it actually was recently pulled out of the water, it should have still been alive when the video was shot.
One daring environmental activist, Christopher Swain, tried to swim the entire 1.8 mile length of the canal in 2015. He made it over three-quarters of a mile when an incoming storm stopped his swim short. He described the experience to the New York Times as “just like swimming through a dirty diaper.”
The EPA has pledged to the begin dredging and capping the canal in 2017.
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