Last week, 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Hawaii's Honolulu Harbor killing thousands of fish, eels, crabs and other aquatic life.
And as Hawaii News Now reports, the damage continues to worsen:
One week after 233,000 gallons of molasses leaked into Honolulu Harbor, the sticky intruder is sticking around, still visible and killing fish.
Keith Kawaoka, Chief of the State Health Department's Hazards Evaluation and Emergency Response said today, "Just to give you an indication of what the fish kill count has been, we're just over 25 thousand as of today."
That's more than ten times what the Health Department reported on Thursday and state crews are still rounding up casualties of last Monday's spill.
As I wrote last week, a molasses spill is especially difficult to clean when spilled in water, because like tar sands oil or diluted bitumen, it is thick, sticky and sinks in water. In addition to depleting the oxygen in the water, suffocating fish and other animals, by sinking it has also severely damaged coral reefs by blocking out the sun and changing the PH balance of the water.
Hawaii News Now explains:
Prof. Richmond, who works at Kewalo Marine Laboratory, says healthy coral reefs should be vibrant and buzzing with activity, but Honolulu Harbor is the exact opposite after the Matson molasses spill. Richmond says fellow researchers from the lab went underwater yesterday and witnessed corals losing their color and tissue.
"They have little unicellular algae that live inside that basically make them solar powered, so they're losing their major source of energy, but in addition, the coral's just simply dying flat out," explained Richmond.
Richmond says the change in the chemistry of the water is causing their cells to break.
"That's one of the reasons why I think we're seeing the fish, the corals and a lot of the invertebrates dying as quickly as they are – their cells are basically blasting out, coming down," described Richmond.
Richmond goes on to explain the economic and ecological importance of coral reefs:
"There was a study done in Hawai'i that shows the coral reefs have about $360 million a year value to the local economy," said Richmond. "Our oceans here really are the goose that's laying the golden egg. People come here to be able to snorkel, swim, fish, see the incredible beauty," Richmond explained, adding even people who don't regularly use the ocean need to know that it's healthy.
"The ecosystem services have actually been valued at $3 billion – meaning that the protection that these reefs give against tsunami waves, against coastal erosion is a dollar figure that we can never engineer anything as effective as our reefs, and in order for them to work, they have to be healthy," said Richmond.