Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) an environmental NGO has expressed divergent views with the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) on the causes of massive death of fishes littering the coast.
NOSDRA) had on May 14 said that findings on the dead fishes on the Atlantic coastline indicated high levels of toxicity caused by toxic wastes discharge.
The agency noted that the discharge of toxic materials into the Atlantic may have come from land as the wastes from domestic and industrial sources often emptied into the water body.
It will be recalled that NOSDRA had on April 22 said it was coordinating a multi-agency investigation, aimed at unraveling the cause of the reported massive death of fishes within the nation’s territorial waters.
HOMEF’s Executive Director, Rev Nnimmo Bassey in a reaction on Monday noted that the report released by NOSDRA did not meet the expectations of stakeholders as to the exact causes of death of the fishes and how to forestall re-occurrence.
“HOMEF believes that a detailed and in-depth analysis should have been provided by NOSDRA working in cooperation with agencies and institutions including the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency and Federal Institute for Fisheries Research which they said were informed of the tragic occurrences.
“The NOSDRA statement doesn’t help the situation and doesn’t erase the anxieties of the peoples of the region.
“We call on the ministry of environment and relevant agencies to tell Nigerians what killed the fishes so that we know how to respond to this and future incidents.
“We are not satisfied with NOSDRA’s report as this doesn’t bring a closure to the saga. Explaining why we experienced a massive death of fish on our coasts is not beyond our scientists within and outside government.
“We were pleased that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) took samples of the dead fish, sediments and water from some of the affected areas, for analysis after series of outcry from community people, CSOs and other groups.
“NOSDRA issued a press release titled: ‘Alleged Mass Fish Kill Along The Coastline of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States’.
“The title of the statement plays down on, and even questions the fact, of the massive fish kill that was evident in many locations. The title renders the result of the said analysis conducted by the agency questionable,” Bassey said..
The NGO noted that NOSDRA’s conclusion was capable of sweeping this serious issue under the carpet, while the affected communities were left to live with the impacts and uncertainties.
HOMEF quoted NOSDRA to have said: “In the light of the foregoing, noting that hydrocarbon were not responsible for the death of the fishes, the plausible cause(s) could partially be attributable to other anthropogenic activities which are probably land-based.
Also reacting to NOSDRA’s findings, Ako Amadi, a Marine Ecologist and former Head, Fisheries Resources Division of NIOMR said:“Fish deaths commonly result from oxygen depletion in the aquatic medium.
“In the case of this recent occurrence in the Niger Delta, mortality were reportedly concentrated on the genus Pseudotolithus, the croaker which is a bottom-feeder.
“It points to the fact that if the deaths had been as a result of ingestion of toxins, the entire food web, that is, the benthic fauna of invertebrates including shrimps, crabs, zooplankton and juvenile fish, must have been affected.
“Evidence could then be deduced from toxicological examination of stomach contents, gills and bladder, or other respiratory and filtration organs of both dead and living croakers for comparison, this has not been the case,” Amadi said
Amadi explained that the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research in Lagos, and related institutions in Port Harcourt and Calabar have enough expertise in this regard.
“The NOSDRA report hardly shows any evidence of possible linkages to sudden increases in water temperature and current variations in the Eastern Gulf of Guinea that could have caused ecological hypoxia (oxygen depletion).
“Also ocean acidification fortified by increased waste (including oil) and heat discharges from coastal industries and shipping as well as from agricultural runoff and mangrove deforestation ought to be examined.
“The NOSDRA conclusions appear not to have been followed by immediate investigations, which infuses credibility cracks into the report.
“I hope that we can see more logical results to these investigations than what NOSDRA has currently presented.
“The short statement by NOSDRA declared twice that the contamination was not from hydrocarbon sources.
“The agency preferred to point fingers elsewhere when they said, “it is commonly observed that most industrial and domestic wastes which contain heavy metal found their ways into drainages and onward transfer to the water bodies.
“ Assuming this is true, it means the incidence was never an act of nature but a pure case of poisoning of the water bodies from sources that have to be stopped.
“The report of laboratory analysis as presented by NOSDRA does not resolve the problem and can be diversionary, “Amadi said.
However, Mr Idris Musa, Director-General of NOSDRA said that the agency was committed to playing its regulatory mandate and remained undeterred in the pursuit of its statutory mandate based on scientific best practices.