Trinidad environmental agency denies reports of “fish kill”

The Environmental Management Authority said it wanted to clarify that there was no “fish kill” on the country’s south west coast. (Credit: Guardian)

The Environmental Management Authority said it wanted to clarify that there was no “fish kill” on the country’s south west coast. (Credit: Guardian)

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday April 7, 2014, CMC – The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Monday reiterated that there is no “significant and sudden mortality” of different species of fish in an area that was recently affected by an oil spill.

In a statement, the EMA said it wanted to clarify that there was no “fish kill” on the country’s south west coast, saying to do so would imply a significant number of species including shrimp and crabs “dying over a short period of time, usually in a clearly defined area.

“In this situation the fish found were almost of one species mullet (Mugil cepahlus) which indicates the event was species specific, or the possible area of contamination was only where this species was prevalent. These fish often enter estuaries and rivers.

“The Striped Mullet usually schools over sand or mud bottoms, feeding on zooplankton. During our investigation relative to this issue we have found no evidence of other species being affected.

The deaths are localised, as samples have been collected only in the La Brea area specifically around the River Negg, Station beach and Coffee areas,” the EMA said.

The environmental group, Friends and Fishermen of the Sea, as well as residents along the affected areas have been calling on the authorities to ban the sale of fishes to the public, blaming the chemicals used by the state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN, to deal with the recent oil spill for the large number of fishes dying along the shores.

But EMA chairman, Dr. Allan Bachan, said while he has noted the pronouncements by members of the public, they were being made in the absence of scientific data that this has led to the anxiety in the public domain.

Bachan who also is the chairman of the National Environmental Assessment Task Force (NEATF) said “the NEATF is also not aware of a ban on fishing in the area impacted by the PETROTRIN oil spill”.

He said the Cabinet appointed NEATF “does not have within its remit, the imposition for lifting of a ban on fishing or any other use of the area impacted by the PETROTRIN oil spill.”

He said the EMA  under the guidance of the NEATF, has been coordinating with stakeholder agencies in vigilantly collecting and conducting independent sampling of dead mullet, water and sediment from the south west coast. He said the EMA has been sending these samples for a pathological report and toxicology screening.

“At this point in time preliminary examinations (necropsy) have been performed and as a result appropriate samples have been take for microbiological (bacterial), histopathological (microscopic examination of affected tissue) and toxological (with an emphasis on screening for toxins specifically Corexit 9500 and petrochemical) examinations,” the EMA said.

The EMA said it was not in a position to comment on “certain allegations by fishermen that the dead mullet was caught and dumped…at this time,” noting however it “can confirm receipt of some pictures …of what seems to be mullet caught by fishermen”. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)