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Massive Die-Off of Fish on Nigerian Coastline Linked to Toxic Discharge

An immense blanket of dead fish stretching across three states has sparked anger and frustration among communities along the Atlantic Ocean coastline in Nigeria.

The area is known for oil spills that have polluted the waters and left fish and other wildlife inedible.

The massive die-off was first reported in February when community people in Delta State complained of the schools of dead fish floating and littering their shores. The silvery fish graveyard stretched from Delta State through Bayelsa State to Rivers State.

Samples of the fish were taken by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).

Idris Musa, head of NOSDRA, declared the die-off had nothing to do with the continual oil leakages from offshore platforms as claimed over the years by Amnesty International, the U.N. Environmental Program, the Fishnet Alliance, and dozens of other groups in and outside of Nigeria.

Musa confessed that the values of cadmium and iron were higher than the regulatory limit.

But environmentalists including Ako Amadi and Nnimmo Bassey of the Health of the Mother Earth Foundation, disagreed with the NOSDRA report, finding it too superficial to be taken seriously.

They accused NOSDRA of questioning the fact of the massive fish kill that was evident in many locations.

“The Ministry of Environment and relevant agencies have a duty to tell Nigerians what killed the fish so that we know how to respond to this and future incidents,” said activist Nnimmo Bassey. “We are not satisfied with NOSDRA’s report as this does not bring a closure to the saga.

Udengs Eradiri, the state’s commissioner for the environment, after a spill last December, recalled that “[Bayelsa] used to be green, you could farm or fish. … We used to have very impressive harvests. You would spend just an hour in the water and you have a lot of fish.”

“Today, you can spend the whole day without catching anything,” Eradiri said.

About 40 million liters of oil are spilled every year across the Niger Delta, according to the activist group Rise for Bayelsa.

Bayelsa accounts for 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil wealth, and hosts several large multinational oil companies. None of the companies operating in the area have admitted to having an oil or gas leak.

Meanwhile, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) this month said that the dead fishes floating and littering the Niger Delta coastline had nothing to do with its operations.

Global Information Network creates and distributes news and feature articles on current affairs in Africa to media outlets, scholars, students and activists in the U.S. and Canada.

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