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Ministry Mistake Over Dead Fish

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net THE Ministry of Agriculture has admitted that due to its failure to take swift action, the mystery surrounding the deaths of hundreds of fish washed ashore in eastern New Providence last week may never be solved. Director of marine resources Michael Brennan said that because no samples were taken on the actual day the fish were discovered, it is unlikely authorities will ever be certain about what killed them. At a press conference, he said: "At this point in time, when you have an incident like that which resulted from immediate conditions in the water, if you don't get the samples immediately then you're not going to find out what happened." While Mr Brennan did not elaborate further, The Tribune understands some samples were taken at a later date, but they were subsequently frozen, rendering them useless. Fishermen and onlookers were left stunned when hundreds of fish were washed up dead or dying onto the shores of Montagu beach last Tuesday. Octopus, parrot fish, grey snappers, and barracuda were among the range of species found dead by fish vendors just after 10am. Mr Brennan did say that whatever caused the incident "is not going on presently". He said: "The incident was localised - in all likelihood it is something that happened in a very small area." Mr Brennan said the possible causes range from oxygen deprivation, excessive growth of algae, bacteria in the water, to contamination from sewage or some kind of chemical. He said the ministry is still investigating the matter. Meanwhile, the local branch of the Nature Conservancy is calling for a protocol to be established to deal with such events. Director Elinor Phillips said: "What we should take away from this, is that we need to be more prepared. "There was a lack of knowledge and experience in this case, so we have to make sure we learn a lesson and be prepared for future occurrences." She said, however, that the government's mistake is understandable given the rarity of such an event. "These things happen. They weren't prepared. But it's just like marine mammal strandings," said Ms Phillips. "They happened and we were unprepared; now we have a marine mammal network in place. "Going forward, we need to prepare for the future."

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