Community people, environmentalists and members of the FishNet Alliance have called on relevant regulatory agencies including the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) to investigate the cause of dead fishes in the Niger Delta coastline.
The call was made in a field report titled: Massive Death of Fish Across the Atlantic Coastline of the Niger Delta made available to the media on Tuesday by the FishNet Alliance, Nigeria.
According to the report, the news of dead fish washing ashore first broke on 20th February, 2020 when community people from Ogbulagha Kingdom 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 report states.
Furthermore, the report outlines: “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 at Forcados oil export terminal and urged 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 confirmed that some community persons are picking up the dead fish and taking them home for consumption and/or to process and sell to unsuspecting members of the public. In some communities, there have been reported cases of dogs dying after consuming the dead fish.
There are also fears that if not properly and timely investigated, this trend could continue and even spread to other communities- knowing the interconnectedness of rivers in the Niger Delta and other water ways in Nigeria.
These communities according to the report needs 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.
In the report, the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey expressed serious concerns, stating that when the coastlines become littered with dead fish, it is a clear indication that there is a serious public health threat.