Residents say the dead fish — comprising mainly mullet, cavalli and other assorted fish — began washing ashore at the Coffee, Point Sable and Carrat Shed beaches about three weeks ago.
The problem was dramatically highlighted when environmental activist Gary Aboud and representatives from several fishing associations visited the St Clair offices of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) bearing a quantity of dead fish and a dead pelican for testing .
The group also attempted to hand deliver a letter to EMA chairman Allan Bachan but were not allowed to enter the Authority’s compound.
When Sunday Newsday visited Coffee Beach yesterday, the stench of rotting fish which littered the sandy shoreline, permeated the atmosphere. Some of the dead fish had already been picked clean by vultures leaving only the head, tail and middle bone of the fish visible in the brown sand.
According to Coffee Beach resident, Anika Goodridge, the fish kill was the latest disaster to take place along the beach which was the site of a massive oil spill on December 17, 2013.
“Fish are coming ashore every day,” Goodridge said, “today I clear out a lot in my backyard, the smell is disgusting, and I have two babies so that is why I clear it out to kinda ease up de scent.”
Asked what effect the dead fish was having on her family, she said:
“Diarrhoea, me and my kids. The scent is always inside, always and you have to use air freshener or whatever you can find or just hope the sun doesn’t come out too hot because that is when the scent does really be unbearable.”
Goodridge said the last time residents had seen representatives from Petrotrin on the beach was over one month ago when they had informed the residents that the ambulance service had been halted following the closure of cleanup activities at the beach.
“We don’t see nothing, no people coming to see about the problem so we have to deal with the problem weself,” she added.
One fisherman, who requested anonymity, said the dead fish were usually washed ashore during high tide and were only visible at low tide.
“This thing preventing we from going back to fish because it not safe,” he said, alleging that the chemicals used during the oil-spill clean up were “so powerful that residents were also careful about going swimming in the sea.
“You could get a serious rash from this thing and we as fisherman suffering because no-one is saying if it is safe to go back into the water,”he said.
In a media release on Friday evening, Petrotrin said a team has been set up to investigate the cause of the fish kill and that samples of the dead fish had been sent to the UWI Veterinary School for testing and analysis.
“In the interest of transparency, Petrotrin had contracted an independent certified laboratory to conduct Water and Sediment Quality testing in La Brea Beaches,” the release said.
The area under study includes beaches in La Brea from Station Beach south along the coastline to Point Sable moving northward, up to the River Neg; and up to 2 kilometres seawards from the shoreline of each location,” Petrotrin said.
“Results of the water and sediment quality study showed that all parameters tested to date were within acceptable limits for heavy metals, temperature, PH levels, salinity, Dissolved Oxygen and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH).
“Based on the environmental monitoring reports, there are no contaminants identified (including hydrocarbons) in the marine and nearshore environments of La Brea,” Petrotrin said.
The company said it has contracted the independent laboratory to conduct a fish bioassay (autopsy) at the La Brea Beaches and that fish samples have been sent to an International Laboratory in the USA, one of the leading experts in forensic fish analysis.”
“We understand the concerns of the community and continue to monitor and evaluate the situation,” the company said.