Fishermen and stakeholders on Friday called on relevant regulatory agencies to identify the cause of massive death of fishes littering the Niger Delta coastline and find a lasting solution.
The group, comprising community people across the Niger Delta region, environmentalists and members of the FishNet Alliance demanded that the culprit be sanctioned if the incident is caused by unnatural factors
The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is leading a multi-agency investigation with other regulatory agencies with mandates in the nation’s territorial waters.
Mr Idris Musa, Director-General of NOSDRA said that Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) are participating in the investigation.
The group made the call in a field report titled: Massive Death of Fish Across the Atlantic Coastline of the Niger Delta by the FishNet Alliance, Nigeria, made available to newsmen in Yenagoa. According to the report, the news of dead fish washing ashore first broke on 20th February, 2020 when residents of Ogbulagha in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State reported massive death of fish, floating and littering their shores.
“This incident has replicated itself in other fishing communities along the Atlantic coastline in the Niger Delta states of Ondo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
“The species of fish mostly affected is the Croaker Fish popularly called Broke-Marriage or Onah in local dialect.
“The immediate cause of the incident is yet to be known, but there are speculations that it is related to the activities of multinational oil and gas production companies operating in the region.
“Among other pointers to the oil companies as source of the incident, some environmentalists have attributed the dead fish littering the Niger Delta coastline to discharge of toxic chemicals from oil company operations.
“The toxic discharge was alleged to have occurred at Forcados oil export terminal.
“We want governments at the affected areas to wake-up to their responsibilities in the protection of the environment and the service to the people, while calling on NOSDRA to ensure that the result of the tests are not unduly delayed,” the report stated.
According to the report some residents are picking up the dead fish for consumption and process and sale to unsuspecting members of the public.
The report stated that if not properly and timely investigated, this trend could continue and even spread to other communities in view of the interconnectedness of rivers in the Niger Delta and other water ways in Nigeria.
The report stated that the communities need help as they are faced with hardship caused by the lockdown, to curb the spread of coronavirus and threats from pollution of their waters, which is their major source of livelihood.
The report quoted Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, as expressing concerns, stating that when the coastlines become littered with dead fish, it is a clear indication that there is a serious public health threat.
“The dead fish are smoking guns pointing at a serious crime. The coronavirus pandemic should not deter the relevant institutions from getting to the root of the matter.
“This matter should not be swept under the carpet because we are focusing attention on the pandemic.” Bassey stated.
The group urged other stakeholders, especially environment and health NGOs to put pressure on the authorities to see this as a major disaster and ensure that the cause of the pollution is quickly detected and the public is duly alerted.
They called for adequate sensitization to raise the awareness of people especially in environments experiencing this phenomenon to ensure that the dead fish are not consumed or sold in view of possible health implications