Massive Molasses Spill in Honolulu Harbor Kills Countless Fish

Image: Massive Molasses Spill in Honolulu Harbor Kills Countless Fish Matson container ship MahiMahi was being loaded at pier 52 when a pipe cracked and leaked molasses into the harbor.

Friday, 13 Sep 2013 07:42 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A massive molasses spill in the Honolulu Harbor and a nearby lagoon this week has killed hundreds of fish and might attract predators like sharks and eels to the contaminated area.

A Matson Navigation pipeline running from storage tanks to ships spewed up to 233,000 gallons of molasses into the harbor on Monday, NBC News reported. To mop up the mess, it will take ocean currents, bacterial digestion, and possibly even deep sea vacuuming.

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Though molasses isn't a toxin, the volume of it that has entered the sheltered harbor is expected to throw a delicate ecosystem off balance. Crews from the Department of Health have already spent whole days lifting hundreds of dead fish out of the water.

"That's a lot of sugar in the water, and one of the things we're concerned about is an algal bloom or bacteria bloom," William Aila, the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, told KITV. "That's why we're cautioning people not to consume any of the fish caught in the affected areas."

The smell of rotting sea creatures fills the air at Keehi Lagoon, while countless bloated fish bob among boats on top of the murky waters.

"We wanted to confirm there weren't more fish there on the bottom, and we did that. So it looks like all the ones on the surface are the extent of the dead fish," Aila told KITV.

Mark Hixon, professor of marine biology at the University of Hawaii, told NBC News that researchers are worried about attracting a range of marine microbes to the area, which would cause a frenzy among predators.

On one hand, the bacteria will help break down the molasses but could strip oxygen from the water, choking other sea life in the area.

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