Experts are warning Honolulu divers, anglers, and surfers to stay out of the water in the wake of the disastrous molasses spill earlier this week. In a press release, Department of Health officials say cleanup boats are still in the process of removing thousands of dead fish from Honolulu Harbor. The stinking fish not only present a possible health problem, but also may attract predators such as sharks, barracuda, and eels. The brown plume is already spreading from the harbor to areas near Sand Island and along the Ewa coastline.
“I didn’t see one single living thing underwater,” diver Roger White told KHNL after taking video of what is happening underneath the surface. “It was shocking because the entire bottom is covered with dead fish. Small fish, crabs, mole crabs, eels. Every type of fish that you don’t usually see, but now they’re dead. Now they’re just laying there. Every single thing is dead. We’re talking in the hundreds, thousands.”
The video, which can be seen below, was taken three miles from Honolulu Harbor at La Mariana. The grim scene will provide a feast for any predators that come wandering, as long as they come soon.
“This is the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across, and it’s fair to say this is a biggie, if not the biggest that we’ve had to confront in the state of Hawaii,” said Gary Gill, the DOH Environmental Health Division’s deputy director.
Experts are still staggered by the implications of such a spill. Unlike oil, there are few methods to skim molasses from the water. The spill occurred on Monday morning during the loading of molasses onto a ship. Later investigation by the shipping company behind the spill, Matson, revealed that a faulty pipe was to blame, flooding local waters with more than 233,000 gallons of the thick substance.
Since the molasses has to dissolve on its own, marine biologists are worried that the incident may spell trouble for years to come.
“As water does leave this bay area and goes out into the neighboring ocean, we can expect the effects in the long term, in days, weeks, months, and probably years, to spread out over some of the South Shore reefs,” said Dr. David Field, an assistant professor of marine sciences at Hawaii Pacific University.
This could be devastating news to not only commericial fishermen and anglers, but also divers, surfers, kayakers, and the local tourism industry.
Matson spokespeople have said that the company is not equipped to deal with a molasses spill since the substance sinks straight to the ocean bed. The company adds that it is currently doing everything in its power to find a solution, as well as beginning efforts to prevent any such occurrences in the future. Matson, Hawaii’s largest shipping company, could be fined upwards of $25,000 a day.