Molasses Spill in Hawaii Kills Thousands of Fish


At Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, 233 thousand gallons of molasses (1400 tons of the sticky stuff) was discharged from a pipe that was later discovered to be faulty. Now, 24 hours later, around the Keehi Lagoon area, thousands of dead fish are  rising to the surface, killed because their oxygen supply was cut off by the thick molasses.

The molasses came from a load of some 16-hundred tons. It was supposed to have been transferred to a Matson container ship, bound for California.

Lexi Ray,  a boater in the area, has already come across “tons and tons of the dead fish floating around.”

Ray’s efforts to rescue an eel affected by the spill by scooping it out and placing it into a bucket of water were unsuccessful. Too much damage had already been done to the marine animal, and it died.

Department of Health employee Gary Gill hazarded the guess that there were possibly “thousands of fish” floating on the surface of the ocean “that have died from this spill so far.”

Department of Land and Natural Resources Dave Gulko is a biologist who specializes in studying the aquatic life that inhabits reefs. He explained what’s going on, saying:

We’re seeing thousands of them. A lot of fish that are in that very stressed situation in very shallow water. We’re seeing reef fish you’d never see. Butterfly fish, eels, etc… all right up next to the shoreline.”

What makes molasses so deadly to fish?

The molasses spill was potentially more dangerous to the fish than an oil spill.That’s because if molasses is poured into water, it goes right to the bottom.

Though oil spills are terrible to the environment, much of the oil in a spill can be dealt with by skimming it off of the water’s surface.

Molasses, on the other hand, sinks and all of the oxygen fish rely on to live is eliminated or drastically lowered. The result is that the fish can’t get enough oxygen to live, and they suffocate.

The company involved, Matson, has issued this release:

Matson regrets that the incident impacted many harbor users as well as wildlife. We are taking steps to ensure this situation does not happen again.”

The health department will continue monitoring and sampling of the ocean water where the spill occurred.In the meantime, Warnings for people to stay away from the area have been broadcast by the local media.

Molasses doesn’t injure people, like some pollutants would, if it comes into contact with your skin. injures people. However, all of the dead fish attract larger carnivores, such as barracudas, eels, and sharks, and those can pose a danger to any humans in the water.

Every day Matson violates the Clean Water Act for polluting the water could result in a fine per day of $25,000.

Although teams of personnel have been added by the Health Department to dispose of the dead fish, there are so many, it’s been difficult going for them.

According to Roger White, of Cool Blue Scyba, when he dove down to check out the damage:

There’s nothing alive down there at all. Everything down there is dead.”

White said that the ocean floor was “covered with dead fish.” He went on and said that he saw “crabs, mole crabs, ells,” that littered the bottom of the ocean in the area.

How many fish did White say he saw? He sated that “We’re talking in the hundreds, thousands.” He added that he “didn’t see one single living thing underwater.”

The entire food chain has been damaged, causing marine biologists to say that the ecosystem will experience a lot of effects for a long time to come because of the huge molasses spill.

A Matson spokesman said they’d do whatever they could to clean up the spill, but it sinks, and they are currently just have the equipment to handle “surface spills.”

The 233,000 gallons of molasses that spilled into Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, and killed thousands of fish, are likely to have effects to the wildlife in the area for years. It will take at least that long for the delicate ecosystem to recover.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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