State investigates death of fish, eel, crabs


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A large fish kill reported Tuesday at the Waiopae tide pools in Kapoho may have had a human cause, according to senior health officials.

Fish, eel and crab were among the marine organisms found dead, and the cross-species die off suggests that they may have perished from something placed in the water that proved poisonous, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the state Department of Health’s environmental division.

Herbicides and pesticides are being considered as possible culprits, though that remains to be determined, said Watson Okubo, Health monitoring section supervisor.

DLNR Education Specialist John Kahiapo said staff with the agency’s aquatics division estimated at least 50 fish have been killed.

Okubo estimated several dozen.

He said his staff were told of dead fish “carpeting” the bottom on Tuesday, though only a few dead fish could be seen Wednesday when a health official arrived. The rest could have been eaten by predators, Okubo said.

There are no signs of a public health risk since whatever caused the fish kill has likely been washed out, Gill said. The tide pools remain open.

“If something was placed in the water that killed the fish, there is no evidence of it that remains,” he said.

Another round of water sampling will take place today, Gill said.

Gary Banks, a resident of Vacationland, located adjacent to the tide pools, estimated that 100 fish were found dead all together.

“It’s very surprising,” he said. “As far as we know, we never had fish die off in this area.

“I live right here on the water, and to see this sort of thing is very upsetting.”

Pockets of water without oxygen can sometimes kill large numbers of fish at once.

Gill said oxygen levels were at 55 percent in the shallow water, which he acknowledged is a bit low.

But he added it’s likely not low enough to have caused the die-off.

Bacteria levels were also normal.

“We don’t have any indication that this could be a natural event,” Gill said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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