“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Big stink in La Brea as dead fish wash ashore
The skies were clear and the breeze was cool, but there was nothing relaxing about walking along the La Brea shoreline yesterday, as the stench of rotting fish carcasses and the massive flocks of corbeaux lingering about had residents both sick and scared. After waking up yesterday to a foul odour in their community, they found their beaches crowded with the birds feasting on dead mullets and moonshines, which were littered across the beach.
At about 9 am, residents bore placards in protest of their woeful situation, hopeful that Government would bring some relief to the fishing community, which has already suffered through last December’s Petrotrin oil spill disaster. Spokeswoman for the residents, Oneca Branker-Showers, said they have been experiencing nausea and diarrhoea due to the stench of dead fish, which have been washing ashore since last week Saturday.
Holding Petrotrin responsible, because of its controversial use of Corexit 9500 dispersant during the oil spill cleanup, she said the dead fish were causing more suffering. “The smell is very awful and I have been getting diarrhoea because of the stench. I have no kids, but children in the area have been vomiting and getting diarrhoea,” she said.
“I believe it is due to the chemicals that were used to clean up the oil spill. It is probably the Corexit 9500 that is causing this. We are still experiencing the environmental hazards day after day, night after night and it is very uncomfortable living here these days. “Months after the oil spill and the beaches and mangroves have not been completely cleaned and we still have fumes now and again when the oil comes up from under the seabed.”
She added, “If you walk along the shoreline you will see spots of oil still coming up. There is also a canal at Carat Shed Beach with oil in it and this gives off fumes.” Although a handful of residents raked up the dead fish into heaps, the high tide washed up more fish. “From oil fumes to dead fish fumes. La Brea people are people too, we have rights,” Avianne Rankin shouted as she held onto a placard.
According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, dispersants break down oil into small droplets. It also pushes the oil residue below the surface, creating a toxic environment for fish by releasing harmful oil break-down products into the water. Petrotrin had launched an investigation into the matter, but according to head of Corporate Social Responsibility, George Commissiong, the company is still awaiting test results.
He said via e-mail: “Further to reports of dead fish along the beaches in La Brea, our HSE personnel visited the beaches and took samples of the carcasses. “The carcasses have since been sent for independent testing in order to determine the cause of death. The results have not been received. “While the residents have blamed the company and the recent oil spill for the fish kill, this has not yet been established.”
More species of fishes found
Initially, most of the dead fish were suspected to be mullets and salmon, but according to fisherman Jason James, brochet, torrot and moonshines were being killed as well. Now, the question for fishermen is whether or not their catches are safe for consumption. “The amount of fish we are seeing on the beach here and nobody is getting a response as to whether the fish in the sea are good for human consumption or not.
“We need to know exactly what is taking place with the fish: whether it is safe to fish or to eat because this is a fishing village and a lot of people depend on fishing to eat.”