Concern over dead fish in Fiji and Vanuatu


Temperature-coralRecent reports have emerged of dead fish strewn along Fiji’s Coral Coast and come on the heels of observations in Vanuatu of hundreds of dead fish and invertebrates floating near Pango Village on Efate, at Emten Lagoon in Port Vila and Aneityum Island.

Fish kills can occur as a result of a number of factors, ranging from a release of toxic chemicals to low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water. For now, the Pacific Community (SPC) is reinforcing government warnings and urging people in affected areas to refrain from consuming the dead fish which may be harmful to human health.

While there is currently no local-level data from which to attribute a specific cause, satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate temperatures of the waters surrounding Fiji and Vanuatu have been hotter than average since late January 2016. “This information is deeply concerning as warm water holds less dissolved oxygen than cooler water and once the level of dissolved oxygen drops below a critical threshold, fish and invertebrates can effectively suffocate,” the Director of SPC’s Fisheries and Marine Aquaculture Division, Moses Amos, explained. “This is especially an issue in shallow water habitats which can rapidly heat up and lose dissolved oxygen, and at night-time, algae respire, removing oxygen from the surrounding water,” Mr Amos said.

Fisheries scientists from SPC are in Fiji this week to work with the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests on developing a National Fisheries Policy and will also lend assistance with investigating the cause of the recent fish kill along the Coral Coast. Fish kills, such as those being observed in Fiji and Vanuatu, are not a new phenomenon. In 2011, a large fish kill occurred in the Marovo Lagoon, in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, with low dissolved oxygen resulting from a die-off of a harmful algae bloom the likely cause. Read more.