Hawaiian Molasses Spill Kills Estimated 25,000 Fish
233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor last week, about five miles from Waikiki, after a pipe failure run by shipping company Matson Navigation Co. The spill has killed thousands of fish already and the number is expected to rise. The spill occurred September 9th in an industrial area where Matson has been loading molasses and other goods for over 30 years.
Since the spill, corals have been losing their color and tissue. The change in water chemistry has caused their cells to break and the molasses is expected to track west with the current. A U.S. Coastguard Unit is joining the effort to help clean up and assess the damage. Although the extent of the damage is still unknown, coral provides a protective buffer against tsunamis and plays a vital role in the eco-system.
Hawaii state officials have stated that there is little they can do to clean up the spill, warning the public to stay out of the water. While the molasses is causing marine life to suffocate as it sinks to the ocean floor, the environmental impact is thought to be less than that of an oil spill. While it is widely known that oil and water do not mix, molasses and water do. The ocean has a better chance of breaking down the compounds found in molasses.
The Hawaii Department of Health has tripled clean up crews in the past couple days. Hundreds of fish have been removed in an effort to salvage any remaining sea life. Because there is such a large number of dead fish on the ocean floor, the molasses spill could lead to an increased number of predator species, including sharks.
The health department has posted signs on beaches warning people to stay out of the water and not to consume any dead fish found in the area. To track the clean up efforts, visit Hawaii News.