What’s sweet, weighs 1,400 tons, and just destroyed an ecosystem?

Bethan Owen Contributor
Font Size:

A ship loaded with a massive amount of molasses leaked 1,400 tons of the stuff into the Pacific Ocean, killing a huge amount of marine life.

The aquatic casualties have been rolling in since Monday morning. Health officials say that they have removed hundreds of dead fish from Honolulu Harbor and are expecting thousands more. These same officials expect the sugary brown water discoloration to be visible for weeks before tides will be able to flush it away. The health department is recommending that people not swim anywhere where there is brown water, and advising everyone not to eat the fish.

“This is the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across, and it’s fair to say that this is a biggie, if not the biggest, that we’ve had to confront in the state of Hawaii,” Department of Health Environmental Health Division Deputy Director Gary Gill told KHON.

After inspecting the ocean floor in an area affected by the spill, diver Roger White said, “Everything is dead. We have to start from zero because there’s nothing alive.”

Experts are also concerned that the high concentration of sugar and nutrients added to the water could lead to a drastic increase of algae growth and  an increase in predatory fish species such as eels, sharks and barracudas. Biologist David Field told KHON, “We’re going to see the effects [of the spill]… for a long time.”

Matson, the shipping company responsible for the leak, could be fined $25,000 a day for violations of the Clean Water Act.