The banks of many riverine communities in Rivers State have been littered with thousands of dead fish washed ashore by waves.
Worried by the development, the Rivers State Government has warned residents to refrain from the consumption of the dead fish while it carries out investigations on the cause of death.
The areas most affected are communities in Bonny and Andoni Local Government Areas of the state.
Specifically, the dead fish were seen in Amariari, Lighthouse, River 7, Agaja, Uku-Mbi, Mbisu 1, Mbisu 2, and Ifoko communities in Bonny Local Government Area, and in Oyorokoto and other communities in Andoni Local Government Area.
Worried by the number of the dead fish on the shores and waterways of Bonny, a team of young men from the area tried to unravel the mystery behind the phenomenon and their preliminary findings have gone viral in the social media.
The team, made up of Godswill Jumbo, a journalist; Humphrey Buowari; Kelly Brown; and Kindness Brown, all executive members of Finima Youth Congress (FYC), said they visited the affected areas of Bonny.
According to their report, the affected fish species is croaker, popularly known as ‘Broke Marriage’ and called ‘Onah’ in Ibani dialect.
Their report said, “The fish were seen lying dead and littered along the shoreline from Lighthouse all the way to Ifoko on the fringe of the boundary between Bonny and Andoni LGA. The fish were also sighted dead and floating on the sea and being washed ashore by waves.”
They also said, “We also received and verified reports that several communities along the Atlantic shoreline across the area referred to as the Gulf of Guinea is affected too. These include Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States in Nigeria.”
A member of the team and journalist, Godswill Jumbo, told THISDAY on telephone that the fishermen they visited in the impacted communities said they started noticing the incident about the last week of March and that smell of the dead fish was scaring away other living fishes thus depriving them of their daily catches.
“They informed that the incidence began about the last week of March 2020 and were in large quantities as much as were filling their fishing baskets and boats. Some used theirs for domestic consumption while others dried and sold to their customers both in Bonny and Port Harcourt,” he said.
Some observations of the team include: “Only the Croaker was affected across all the observed affected areas; The dead fish were always turning up fresh in the mornings along the shores; The fishermen observed out at sea that some of the fish kept popping up on the surface of the water and some were alive when sighted only to be struggling to stay alive and then they die.
“Within 2 nautical miles from Lighthouse the fish were all dead but beyond that and as far as the Fairway Buoy many of the fishes were sighted alive only to die later; on the body of the fish, swellings were sighted looking like a lesion or boil. When pricked something like pus would be excreting from it; the fish begins to rotten from the tail as against the head.
“The fish begins to turn green when it begins to get rotten; when spread out on the fire to dry, unlike normal fish, these do not thoroughly dry up, instead they would disintegrate or scatter.
He also said the team observed at the sea that the tide was carrying them from the high sea towards the sea shores, suggesting probably that the cause of their deaths maybe out there in the deep sea.
He further raised concern that the fish were already being sold in markets, even in Port Harcourt in spite of warnings that they could be injurious to health.
Although there are no explanations on the cause of death, THISDAY gathered that samples of the dead fish have been sent to an expert on hydrobiology/fisheries, Professor Ibitoru Hart, of the University of Port Harcourt for investigation.
Prof. ibitoru Hart told THISDAY that the samples had been sent to the laboratory for analysis and that the results would be out in about two weeks.
The Rivers Government has also stated that sample of dead fish had been taken to the Rivers State University Laboratory for analysis to identify the cause of death.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Ministry of Environment has confirmed massive death of fish along the rivers of Finima in Bonny LGA and Oyorokoto in Andoni LGA. The report was brought to the attention of the Ministry on Friday by King M. O. Dic-Isotu, Abah Ogwuile XIII of Unyengala Doni Town in Andoni LGA.
Reacting on the incidence, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno, has called on the people living in the affected communities not to eat the dead fish, as the ministry would carry out full scale investigation to ascertain the actual cause of the death.
Meanwhile THISDAY gathered that the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Igbiks Tamuno, had already swung into action as he had sent a team to Bonny to immediately commence investigations.
As at 5pm Friday, the team had arrived Bonny and was being taken round the shores of the community.