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2013 La Brea Oil Spill
FFOS responds to IMA: Bait Dump vs. Fish Kill in Chaguaramas

FFOS responds to IMA: Bait Dump vs. Fish Kill in Chaguaramas

Date: July 12th, 2017

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

Today! 43 months later, annual ongoing Mosquito Creek fish kill continues.
Before Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) respond to the article published on page 23, Thursday 6th July 2017, in the Daily Express, titled “Bait dump vs fishkill in Chaguaramas” by Farahnaz Solomon, PhD, of the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), we alert the Media that at 8am today, 12th July, the entire shore line and coast of Mosquito Creek is covered in dead fish of a wide variety, including large commercial species. FFOS have called on the Governments IMA to investigate these ongoing death in the Petrotrin Red Zone area which was so named after the December 17th, 2013 oil spills and to honestly advise the public of the safety of consuming fish and shrimp from this significantly contaminated area.

The IMA have continuously claimed that the ongoing occurrence of dead fish in the Chaguaramas Basin since May 10th 2017, and in Point Sable Beach, on the fringe of the Aripero Lagoon in La Brea since the December 17th 2013 oil spills, are “dumped bait” by “long liner vessels that had visited the area”, or “dumped by catch” as in the case of La Brea.

Fishermen, mariners and residents of Chaguaramas and La Brea have stated to us that this is the first time in the history of these areas that they have observed tens of thousands of dead fish, day after day. The Chaguaramas Basin has had dead fish for over 9 weeks, and with no apparent cause

  • no net marks,
  • no reported hydrocarbons in the water,
  • no reported chemical spill,
  • no industrial activity,
  • no unusual decomposing debris in the Basin.

Even up to last week 4th July, FFOS have received reports of tens of thousands of dead fish (Joshua and Herring mainly, but also including eels, crabs, cutlass fish, snappers, grunts, waliacs, bonito, catfish) within the Chaguaramas Basin. This time a wider variety of fish, and not only bait fish.

This is not a natural occurrence or dumped fish but another understated environmental disaster occurring in Trinidad under the watchful eye of the “Guardian of the Ocean”. As a nation, are we being advised properly by these scientists? Is it possible that IMA scientists are not collecting sufficient data, or conducting improper analyses or misinterpreting the little that they have?

Has the IMA applied the rigid scientific scrutiny which is required for a thorough investigation? Shouldn’t science also consider an inclusionary approach of consulting with primary stakeholders who have considerable first-hand knowledge?

FFOS have submitted facts which the IMA appear to have bypassed in their analyses. IMA reported that the dead fish are dumped or by-catch discard.

FFOS responds:
-Long liner vessels do not use or capture this type of bait as the Joshua and Herring are too small and soft. Long liners cannot discard what they do not capture.

-FFOS have footage which shows dead fish on the bottom of the seabed of the Chaguaramas Basin. Fish sink immediately upon death, and then float after decomposition begins. If these bait fish were dumped in the Basin as the IMA has stated, they would have already been dead and would remain afloat, not sink.
There are no strong ocean currents deep inside the Basin that could have pushed the dead submerged fish under water from the known fish landing sites on the north eastern area to the South Eastern area across the Basin (at Crews Inn), where no landing of fish or fishing is allowed. Therefore, can the IMA explain the thousands of dead fish recorded by FFOS submerged at the pier at Crews Inn?

The IMA article reported that “in certain times of the year, bait fish is caught in abundance… and the extra fish…discarded at sea by the fishermen”. If this is the case, are impoverished fishermen continuously dumping marketable fish and other “by catch” for the past 9 weeks in Chaguaramas and 43 months in La Brea?….and only in these two specific localised areas? At times returning vessels do discard living “a la vive” bait, and these survive, but these were tens or at most hundreds, not hundreds of thousands covering the entire Basin and ongoing for 9 weeks. The IMA claim that the dead fish in La Brea “bear net marks on their body as a sign of being caught”. Would the IMA share with the public evidence of their claim? FFOS have publicly shared pictures and videos collected from 2013 which show no net markings, but show bloody lesions on the eyes or partial blotchy decomposition on dying sick fish.

What was the methodology IMA used to make these unsubstantiated conclusions?

Have the IMA collected water and fish samples for testing of chemicals or toxins in the water or flesh that may have potentially killed them or altered their environment?
Why has the IMA guarded the reports of its conclusive scientific investigations where they would have tested the basic physio-chemical parameters such temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity and conducted chemical analysis such as hydrocarbon content that would rule out the cause of death as not being chemical or toxin induced?
What is the IMA hiding?

If fishermen are dumping these countless marketable fish, then why are they fishing?
Why all of a sudden?
Why only at these two specific locations?

The IMA as an advisory institution, continue to mislead the public and make baseless conclusions that are further endangering public health, and this is unbecoming and irresponsible from any scientist.

FFOS continue to appeal to the Government and our environmental institutions to share this eminent scientific analysis, or to conduct scientific analysis (if none has been done) instead of blurting out ad hoc second hand rumors which are disgracing the integrity and reputation of the Institution and jeopardizing the entire foundation on which the IMA was founded.

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary

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