Niger Delta: Hoards of dead fish washed ashore sparks fear of public health danger

A mariner has raised the alarm over scores of dead fish lining the coastal areas in some communities around Bonny in Rivers State and down to Eket in Akwa Ibom State.

For the mariner, who prefers not to be named, the key concern is that of public health dangers that could befall seafood eaters as according to him, locals have been having a field time carting away as much fish as they could.

A team of investigators including Godswill Jumbo, who is a journalist, Humphrey Buowari, Kelly Brown and Kindness Brown, disclosed in their report that they visited Finima Town, Amariari, Lighthouse, River 7, Agaja, Uku-Mbi, Mbisu 1, Mbisu 2, and Ifoko communities.

The report by the team also show that while some of the fish (Croacker) popularly known as “Broke Marriage” and called “Onah” in Ibani dialect, which are being harvested are dried and eated at home, a large quantity of it is sold to unsuspecting buyers in bigger markets in Port Harcourt. 

The investigators also confirmed in the report that the situation could cut across other states of the Niger Delta Region including Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom States.

The team said it specifically observed that “Only the Croaker was affected across all the observed affected areas; the dead fish were always turning up fresh in the mornings along the shores; the fishermen observed out at sea that some of the fish kept popping up on the surface of the water and some were alive when sighted, only to be struggling to stay alive and then they die.

“Within 2 nautical miles from Lighthouse, the fish were all dead but beyond that and as far as the Fairway Buoy many of the fishes were sighted alive only to die later; on the body of the fish, swellings were sighted looking like a lesion or boil. When pricked something pus would be excreting from it; the fish begins to rotten from the tail as against the head. The fish begins to turn green when it begins to get rotten

“When spread out on the fire to dry, unlike normal fish, these do not thoroughly dry up, instead they would disintegrate or scatter; out at the sea, we observed that the tide was carrying them from the high sea towards the sea shores, suggesting probably that the cause of their deaths may be up ahead out there in the deep sea.”

The team believes that the situation should be declared a public health emergency, while the law enforcement agencies be involved to ensure a stop in harvesting of the fish.

However, samples of the fish and water from different locations along the shoreline have been sent to Professor Ibitoru Hart, an expert in hydrobiology and fisheries at the University of Port Harcourt for scientific investigations to ascertain the likely cause of the problem.

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