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Environmentalists fault NOSDRA’s report on massive fish deaths in Niger Delta, seek further investigations

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Environmentalists have described as diversionary, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency’s (NOSDRA) report on massive death of fish along Niger Delta coastlines.

They noted that while NOSDRA was quick to state that hydrocarbon was not responsible for the deaths, it failed to produce a plausible cause, thus, leaving the affected communities to live with the impacts and uncertainties.

It could be recalled that reports of dead fish washing up on an extensive stretch of the Niger Delta coastline first broke out on February 20, 2020, when community people from Ogbulagha Kingdom in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State raised an alarm that dead fish in their large numbers were floating and littering their shores. Similar reports also came from fishing communities in Ondo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.

The director of the ecological think tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Ninemo Bassey, said the report of laboratory analysis as presented by NOSDRA does not resolve the problem and was diversionary.

He expressed deep concerns about the fate of community people who depend on the affected water bodies for sustenance, noting that the situation compounds the struggles of affected community people as they battle the hardships brought by the restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bassey stressed that what NOSDRA gave was a very basic and tentative explanation merely aimed at ruling out the possibility of the cause being from hydrocarbons.

According to him, the agency merely mentioned possibility of other chemicals being the cause but went ahead to say that this would only affect fish in restricted areas and couldn’t cause widespread dying of fish.

“The NOSDRA statement doesn’t help the situation and doesn’t erase the anxieties of the peoples of the region. It is not new to see a specific fish species dying as this has happened in other countries where, for example, species have succumbed to thermal or temperature increase shocks. It is true that NOSDRA focuses on hydrocarbon pollution and has restricted its review to sources in that field. Seeking to shift blame to other factors, sectors or communities cannot be the end of the story.

“The Ministry of Environment and relevant agencies have a duty to tell Nigerians what killed the fish so that we know how to respond to this and future incidents. We are not satisfied with NOSDRA’s report as this doesn’t bring a closure to the saga. Explaining why we experienced a massive death of fish on our coasts is not beyond our scientists within and outside government,” he added.

A marine ecologist and former Head, Fisheries Resources Division of the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Ako Amadi, observed that the NOSDRA report hardly showed any evidence of possible linkages to sudden increases in water temperature and current variations in the Eastern Gulf of Guinea that could have caused ecological hypoxia (oxygen depletion), such as ocean acidification fortified by increased waste (including oil) and heat discharges from coastal industries and shipping, as well as from agricultural runoff and mangrove deforestation.

“The NOSDRA conclusions appear not to have been followed by immediate investigations, which infuses credibility cracks into the report. I hope that we can see more logical results to these investigations than what NOSDRA has currently presented,” he added.


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