Harbour fish kill: A sign of things to come?
In a tragic incident on December 9, 2023, thousands of fish perished in Harbour View, St Andrew, causing concern for both residents and fisherfolk (Jamaica Observer, December 10, 2023).
Initial investigations by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) revealed that a build-up of oxygen-depleting algae, commonly known as a red tide, was the culprit behind the fish kill.
Anthony McKenzie, NEPA’s director of environmental management, explained that oxygen depletion in the enclosed section of the harbour was a recurring issue, exacerbated by poor water circulation. Unfortunately, this may not be an isolated incident, signalling a potential pattern in the area.
Further scrutiny, however, raises questions about the role of German Ship Repair Jamaica Limited in the pollution of the waterways.
NEPA’s enforcement action against the company revealed non-compliance with environmental permit conditions, potentially contributing to the pollution of the harbour. This calls for a critical examination of industrial activities impacting water quality.
To prevent future incidents, several proactive measures are imperative. Firstly, the establishment of monitoring stations at companies with run-off access to water bodies, such as the Rio Cobre, can help detect and address pollution promptly.
Secondly, NEPA should regularly sample effluent stored by companies, creating an identification bank for swift action during pollution events.
Lastly, stringent penalties, extending beyond fines to active participation in clean-up efforts, should be imposed to ensure the protection of waterways.
In urging the Government, NEPA, and other watchdog agencies, we must stress the urgency of enforcing current regulations and enhancing monitoring efforts.
Without decisive action, the legacy we leave for future generations may be devoid of clean water sources. Let’s unite to safeguard our waters, ensuring a sustainable and healthy environment for all.