Photos which emerged earlier this week of dead fish littering the Rockaway beach in Canefield raised concerns about possible water contamination in the area. However, acting Chief Fisheries Officer Jullan Defoe says preliminary investigation by the fisheries division has produced no evidence of water pollution in that location.
Earlier this week, when images surfaced of dozens of fish washed ashore, many speculated that pollution or water contamination by businesses operating in this area may have been the cause but a much simpler explanation – fishers discard – has since surfaced.
Speaking to Dominica News Online (DNO) Defoe revealed that the identified species of fish found on the beach was sprat which is locally referred to as kayee. According to him, this species is invariably of lower value hence, they are discarded when caught.
“This is not the first time this is happening but the thing is, as much as we love kayee, it is a very low value species for fishers to the extent that it is not even targeted. So it is often caught as a bycatch in the fishers attempt to target more valuable species,” Defoe stated.
The Chief Fisheries Officer explained that in the situation of a bycatch, the unwanted species are disposed of in the sea but are eventually washed ashore.
He said there was no evidence of a fuel or oil spill, nor was there any boat in harbor dispensing fuel during that period that could have caused the incident.
“So for now, we believe that the businesses had no part to play in this situation. From my experience, if there was some sort of pollution or contamination, it would be very unlikely that only one particular species would be affected as no other species were found on the beach other than sprat,” Defoe stated.
According to the fisheries div1sion official, their attempt to determine which fishers were operating in that area had been unsuccessful but he encouraged fisherfolk to practice little to no discard and suggested that unwanted catches be donated, or given to the public.
“Looking at the general context of food security, while kayee may have low value on the market, it is quite an important food source and if it is that the fishers feel it is burdensome to sell that species they should make it more widely available to the public,” Defoe advised.
He said fishermen also have the option of contacting the fisheries division which can assist in making arrangements to them donate the fish and the prevent the wastage.
“There are a lot of people who need the important protein source which kayee contains so
we would be happy to assist the fishers in distribution,” Defoe stated.
He said the Fisheries Division would require the assistance of the Environmental Health
Department for a more intensive investigation for water contamination but assured the
public that regular discussions are held with business operators in that area on water
contamination and safeguarding of marine life.