Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 25th 2014 Contents A5
Friday, April 25, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
State-owned Petrotrin is inves-
tigating information that a certain
southern-based vessel allegedly
dumped the fish which washed up
on La Brea beaches last month,
raising fears of a "fish kill" caused
by toxins used in the Petrotrin oil
spill clean-up operations.
This after tests by the Institute of
Marine Affairs (IMA) and Environ-
mental Management Agency (EMA)
concluded that the dead fish were
not poisoned by toxic substances
and instead may have been caught
Petrotrin confirmed the situation
yesterday after receiving reports on
the issue from the various agencies.
Also confirming the matter was
Water Resources and Environment
Minister Ganga Singh, who said yes-
"It is reasonable to conclude, after
reading the reports, that the fish
which washed up on Coffee beach,
La Brea, were caught and dumped
and therefore serious questions---
indeed, a fishy situation---have aris-
The fish which washed ashore had
sparked fears in some quarters that
they may have been killed by chem-
icals used in the clean-up following
Petrotrin s December 2013 oil spill.
Following questions on the issue
by the T&T Guardian, Petrotrin on
Wednesday confirmed it had received
information that a trawler (name
given), fitting the description of one
operating out of the Otaheite port
had allegedly dumped by-catch (fish)
on its way back to port, offshore at
Coffee beach and the Aripero River,
at the time the fish washed ashore.
Information also had been received
that the vessel did not return to port
every day and that would have
accounted for the periodic "fish-kill
reports" by La Brea residents.
Petrotrin stated that the investi-
gation s focus included the motive
for any such dumping, whether acci-
dental or deliberate, and its Security
Department was handling the issue.
The company said: "These are
very serious allegations and one
should avoid speculating on motive.
Suffice to say, the company con-
demns in the strongest manner such
action if it is proven true.
"Not only did it cast blame on the
company for something of which
we are innocent but more impor-
tantly it created a health hazard for
the residents of La Brea, deprived
users of the enjoyment of the affected
beaches, generated unnecessary hys-
teria and panic among consumers
of fish and adversely affected the
livelihood of innocent fisherfolk.
"Fisherfolk operating in the Gulf
of Paria have already been impacted
by low sales as a result of protest
action taken by a few."
Petrotrin declined comment on
how far the probe had reached, who
owned the vessel and what sanctions
may be imposed. The company also
declined to say if the vessel s owner
was doing any other work for
Petrotrin or any contractor attached
Asked if the vessel might be doing
any other type of work and if that
would be in breach of the agreement
the company has with the fishing
association of that area, Petrotrin
"The company had an agreement
with the Otaheite Fisherfolk Asso-
ciation for payment for loss of earn-
ings to boat-owners arising from
the oil-spill incident of December
2013. Final payment in this regard
is still to be processed. The last date
for which payment is due was April
8."On whether the company is prob-
ing if any vessel owner may be
working in collusion with other peo-
ple to create hysteria over the issue,
Petrotrin declined comment, save
"Based on the relevant findings,
the company stands ready to take
the appropriate action it deems nec-
After days of seeing small fish washing up on the shores of La Brea beaches, residents were surprised to find this
large fish on Point Sable beach during the height of fish-kill fears last month. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Probe into trawler 'dumping' report...
Fishy situation in La Brea---Ganga
Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA)
chairman, Professor Indar Ramnarine,
says the IMA's final report on the fish
kill issue will be completed this week.
He said the IMA had been probing
the issue since its inception and IMA
officers had gone to the area almost
daily to monitor and collect samples
and do analysis.
The team includes researchers from
IMA, UWI's Departments of Life
Sciences and Chemistry, the Veterinary
School and Fisheries Division.
Ramnarine said the mission had
concluded that only one species, white
mullet (Mugil curema), was involved in
He said that in itself did not suggest
it was a classic "fish kill" resulting from
poisonous or chemical substances.
Ramnarine said in the case of a
classic type of "fish kill" different
species of all sizes would die and wash
up, since any toxic substance would
affect everything in the water in which
the substance was found and not just
one species or size of fish.
"So this isn't a typical fish-kill," he
He said the fish they tested were
found to be well-muscled and not
starving. The condition factor was
greater than one, which suggested they
had been feeding well, he added.
Ovaries and testes were in a state of
development but the fish were not yet
breeding, he said. The peak breeding
season for white mullet is June/July.
Ramnarine said many parasitic
nematodes were found in the fish but
that did not usually kill them.
He said samples were also taken to
look for bacteria and other micro-
"But to date, we have not identified
any bacteria that would have killed the
fish, so it's highly unlikely there was a
bacterial cause of death.
"We also examined the stomach
contents and so far seen nothing that
would have killed them either," he
However, Ramnarine said,
researchers found external marks on
He said: "Also the fish were killed
suddenly. It appears to have an external
cause and it is possible the fish might
have been dumped, This is the direction
to which the conclusions are leading.
"We are now focusing on the
external marks found on fish to
determine what caused this."
Ramnarine said researchers in the
Department of Life Sciences were also
analysing the stomach contents of the
female bottlenose dolphin which
washed ashore more recently at
FINAL IMA REPORT SOON
EMA: NO POISON IN FISH
WE DON'T DUMP---
Raffick Khan, owner of the
fishing trawler Falcon, said
yesterday his vessel had not
dumped any fish off Coffee beach,
Khan made the comment as he
updated the T&T Guardian on the
state of the fisherfolk community
in the wake of the Petrotrin oil
spill and the washing up of dead
fish at La Brea.
His family owns the majority of
the 80-plus vessels operating out
of the Otaheite port.
Khan said fisherfolk had not
received the "all-clear" from the
IMA or EMA to return to catching
fish or to sell fish to the public and
that was causing a problem with
sales, since the public was
unaware of the situation and was
not buying fish.
He said that situation had been
affecting fishermen since last
December when the oil spill
He, however, maintained
fishermen were not dumping their
catch. He said Petrotrin had been
compensating fisherfolk for not
fishing and fishermen were only
fishing two days a week instead
Khan, however, said Petrotrin
had given the all-clear to fisherfolk
to return to work, but the
company had not asked fishermen
about any dumping.
He said the fisherfolk had also
not heard any results pertaining
to tests on the fish which washed
up in La Brea. He also noted that a
large dolphin had washed up last
week. Denying any by-catch was
dumped, he said the dolphin was
Khan said fisherfolk have been
working with Fishermen and
Friends of the Sea activist Gary
Aboud "65 per cent" since Aboud
"researched things," and they had
asked him to find out how many
drums of the chemical Corexit had
been used in Petrotrin's oil spill
clean-up and over what area of
water this had been used.
Khan accused Petrotrin's
seismic testing, which Aboud has
protested, for affecting fishing
Khan also announced that
fishermen were preparing for a
protest march tomorrow in La
Brea, alongside other groups.
Environmental Management Authority (EMA)
chairman Dr Allan Bachan said its April 7
statement noted that the results of toxicology and
other tests on the fish did not validate claims that
the fish were poisoned.
The EMA's preliminary finding was that cause of
death was not due to the chemical Corexit used to
clean beaches after the oil spill.
Bachan said the fish were feeding well and were
all of one species and in a localised area. He could
not say if fishermen could return to work full time,
until scrutiny was concluded next week.
An EMA report on the situation, which the T&T
Guardian obtained a copy of, indicated the EMA
had requested that samples be analysed by Cariri,
the Aquatic Animal Health Diagnostic lab and
UWI's Veterinary school.
In points similar to the IMA's findings, it stated
that if the fish were ailing for some time they
would have had empty intestines and been
The noteworthy point, according to the report,
was that all samples had increased activity of
Melano Macrophage Aggregates (MMAs),
"symptomatic with conditions of environmental
stress, bio-markers for water quality in terms of
both deoxygenation and istragenic chemical
The document stated that it could also be
attributed to fish caught in nets and stress
attributed to capture.
The document said based on lab tests, petro-
chemical toxins were not the cause of death and it
was unlikely there was a correlation to the
December 2013 oil spill or dispersants used for
that, due to the specific, small area affected.
The EMA report stated that another scenario
that could not be ruled out was that the fish were
caught and dumped at the site.
"It should be noted that these fish so caught,
would be symptomatic with conditions of
environmental stress and as such will have high
levels of MMAs due to deoxygenation," the report
The EMA suggested circular lesions on the
heads of the fish needed to be investigated and
"this could be gillnet marks or a physiological
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