Shark attacks feared in Hawaii after molasses spill

Hawaii health officials have warned
swimmers and surfers to stay out of
the waters near Honolulu harbour
after a leak of 1,400 tons of molasses
killed hundreds of fish, potentially
attracting sharks.
The Hawaii department of health
deployed three boats to remove the
dead fish, and they were expected to
remove thousands more in the
coming weeks, said a spokeswoman,
Janice Okubo.
A brown plume of sweet, sticky liquid
was spotted seeping into Honolulu
harbour and Keehi lagoon on
Monday after a leak was discovered
in a pipeline used to load the molasses
on to ships operated by Matson
Navigation Company, the health
department said. Matson Navigation
is a subsidiary of Matson Inc, which
has provided Pacific-wide shipping
services since 1882.
Roger Smith, a dive shop owner who
went under water on Wednesday to
survey the damage, said it was unlike
anything he had seen in 37 years of
diving, with brown-tinted water and
a layer of molasses coating the sea
floor.
"Everything that was underwater
suffocated," Smith said. "Everything
climbed out of its hole and the whole
bottom was covered with fish, crabs,
lobsters, worms, sea fans – anything
that was down there was dead."
The health department said in a
statement that while molasses was not
directly harmful to humans, it was
polluting the water, causing fish to
die, and could lead to an increase in
predator species such as sharks,
barracuda and eels. Molasses is a
byproduct of the refining of sugar
cane.
Okubo said crews were monitoring
molasses levels in the waters to help
predict the spread and overall impact
of the 223,000-gallon spill.
Matson acknowledged in a statement
that the spill was caused by a faulty
pipe, which it said had been fixed. It
said the sugar product would dissipate
on its own.
The company said it regretted the
incident and was working with
authorities to take steps to ensure it
did not happen again.
"We take our role as an
environmental steward very
seriously," the statement said. "We
have a long history in Honolulu
harbour and can assure all involved
that this is a rare incident."
The health department said an
unusual growth in marine algae and
harmful bacteria was another
environmental danger posed by the
spill.
The department posted signs on
beaches warning people to stay out of
the water and not to consume any
dead fish found in the area. The
brown plume was expected to remain
visible for weeks while natural tides
and currents slowly flush the area, it
said.
Tourism officials said they were
monitoring the situation but did not
believe it would hurt Hawaii's
primary source of income.
"At this time, we do not foresee any
immediate impact on our visitor
industry," said Mike McCartney,
president and chief executive of the
Hawaii Tourism Authority, in a
statement.