What killed the swarm of fish washed up the shorelines? The relevant authorities should investigate the cause

As the nation expects test results being conducted by the National Oil Spill and Detection Agency (NOSDRA) to determine the cause(s) of death of a large number of fishes that washed up the shorelines of some communities in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States, environmentalists have expressed concern over claims that only a species of fish was affected. This is Croaker, with market/street name of ‘Broke Marriage’. Prejudicing the investigation with untested claim will be dangerous for the health of the people within the affected communities and the nation at large.

It is noteworthy that NOSDRA is working in collaboration with other relevant agencies of government that equally have mandates on the nation’s territorial waters, particularly the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), the Federal Institute of Fisheries Research and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). We expect that their report will be released early to enable the affected communities and governors of these states to take informed health decisions.

Meanwhile, NOSDRA has ruled out pollution of the waters from oil spill activities, after preliminary investigation of the area in Delta State that was first affected by a swarm of dead fish. Also, a pollution expert, Olanike Adeyemo, Professor of Aquatic Epidemiology & Toxicology at the University of Ibadan, said it is unscientific to state that only the Croaker fish species will be affected by pollution rather than all fish forms. Also discussing the issue, a group of marine biologists and environmental pollution scientists, offered suggestions on how to investigate what killed the fishes, stating that their recommendation was based on the assumption that they may have died as a result of some toxic compound that interfered with their biological activities and that some or all of the toxic compounds could still be present in their flesh.

Experts recommend that samples of the dead fishes should undergo specific scientific analysis, and that if they were well-preserved it would show the compounds present in their flesh. They further recommend analysis of the fishes’ species that survived in the same water to compare the compounds present in both, specifically to give an insight of what happened. It is important for this exercise to be done quickly since the affected communities in Rivers State are already probing and, in their preliminary report, stated that they also received verified reports that several communities, along the Atlantic shoreline across the area referred to as the Gulf of Guinea, were affected too. These are Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.

Nigerians in these communities are already concerned about the possible health hazard that may arise, since some people harvested the dead fish and either consumed them or sold them dried or fresh in their markets. Their fear is also driven by some mysterious observations they made which are that the dead fish rots from the tail instead of from the head, turns green in the process of rotting, had boil that oozed pus when pricked, and that they do not dry thoroughly but disintegrate when spread over open fire, unlike other fishes.

They have almost concluded that something out there in the ocean is responsible for the death of the fish, given observation by some fishermen that the tide drives the dead fish from the high sea towards the shores. This movement, they said, suggests probably that the cause of the fish’s untimely death maybe out there in the deep sea. As things stand, only a thorough investigation by the relevant authorities can resolve the many speculations about the cause(s) of death of the tonnes of fish washed up the shorelines of the Niger Delta communities.