The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has declared that there was no fish kill in the Gulf of Paria, as only one species of fish was affected.
The EMA stated that preliminary investigations revealed that the deaths were not caused by the dispersant Corexit 9500, which was used to remove oil from the water surface after last December’s oil spill in the Gulf.
“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,” an EMA media release stated on Monday.
The EMA said the deaths were localised as samples have been collected only in the La Brea area, specifically around the River Negg, Station beach and Coffee beach areas.
EMA chairman Dr Allan Bachan stated that he has noted the pronouncements by members of the public over the last week regarding the safety of eating fish caught in the Gulf of Paria.
He expressed concern that these pronouncements are being viewed as facts in the absence of scientific data and this has led to the anxiety in the public domain.
Bachan, who is also chairman of the National Environmental Assessment Task Force (NEATF), said he was not aware of a ban on fishing in the area impacted by the Petrotrin oil spill.
“The National Environmental Assessment Task Force, which was established in accordance with Cabinet Minute #205 of January 23, 2014, 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 stated.
Bachan further advised the public that the EMA, under the guidance of NEATF, has been co-ordinating with stakeholder agencies in collecting and conducting independent sampling of dead mullet, water and sediment from the south-west coast.
The samples, he said, were sent for a pathological report and toxicology screening.
The EMA stated that the dead fish were found well muscled (not starving) and there were a lot of digesta (food in intestines) and internal parasites which indicate that the fish were feeding well when the event took place.
But La Brea Fisherfolk Association president Alvin La Borde asked that the EMA explain why the dead fish surfaced only in La Brea and not other parts of the country.
“Why is it that this happened only in La Brea and in areas where the oil washed ashore. I think someone is hiding something here. Tell us why dead fishes are not washing up in other areas.”
La Borde argued that other species of fish were also washing ashore in La Brea.
“But we are getting more mullet now because that is the species that is coming close to the shore at this time of the year. The salmon and other fishes are in deeper waters. But we do have some other fishes coming up,” he said.