General — 16 May 2018 — by Courtney Menzies
Aquatic life found dead in Ambergris Caye, New River, and the Belize River

No definite answers as yet

BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 14, 2018– On May 8, Ambergris Today reported that dead fish had washed ashore near Sandy Toes Beach Bar and Grill on the island. Among the dead fish were sardines, needlenose fishes, and puffer fishes.

Naturally, the residents of the island were concerned about this unusual occurrence, and wondered what could have been causing it. There was no obvious answer, but there was much speculation about possible causes, including a strong rip current, a low tide leaving the fish stranded out of the water, and Sargasso toxins poisoning the fishes.

According to Ambergris Today, “the thick Sargasso layer floating on the beach has settled on the seabed and the water is being tainted red. Some believe that the rotting Sargasso toxins could be the culprit of the dying fish, but last night’s incident is isolated only by the Sandy Toes area.”

While residents of Ambergris Caye find this occurrence unusual, this is not uncommon for Orange Walk residents.

On May 8, News5 reported on fish being found dead in New River, Orange Walk. Some of the fishes that were seen floating in the river were tilapias and tarpons. According to the residents, however, this is a yearly occurrence and they speculate that it is caused by the Tower Hill Sugar Factory’s dumping of toxic chemicals.

An expert confirmed to us that the toxins could have caused oxygen depletion in both the Ambergris Caye and the New River incidents. In relation to the Sargasso toxins, it is possible that the fish in the area of Sandy Toes Beach received a concentrated dose, which would explain why only the fish in that isolated area were dying, that expert  said.

However, the idea of a low tide leaving the fish stranded is also plausible, we were told.

We attempted extensively to get in touch with officers at the Fisheries Department for a comment on the situation, and to ask about measures to mitigate the problem, but were told that the staff was not in. We also attempted to contact Beverly Wade, Director of Fisheries, a number of times, but we were repeatedly told that she was also out of office.

May 8 also saw the death of a manatee in the Belize River. A Belize City resident told Amandala that near her family’s restaurant, Marlin’s, a dead manatee with its intestines hanging out was spotted.

Breaking Belize News also reported that pictures of another dead manatee drifting in the Belize River were circulating on social media shortly after the first manatee was found.

Furthermore, on April 17, four dead manatees were found in the Belize River, already decomposing. It was speculated that gillnets could have been the cause of these deaths.

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