Residents were alarmed when hundreds of dead fish suddenly surfaced on the lagoon side of San Pedro Town on Monday, June 4th. The phenomenon occurred in an area known as Zaak Bajo around the San Juan Subdivision, with large amounts of snapper, barracuda and even a large angelfish observed floating in the murky waters of the lagoon. The staff at Hol Chan Marine Reserve are aware of the situation and have started an investigation to determine what caused this latest fish die off.
Hol Chan Biologist Kirah Forman said that at the moment, they suspect Sargasso is one of the causes for the strange occurrence. She also claims that many of these fish may have died somewhere else days ago, and floated to the Zaak Bajo area due to the sea currents. However, they are not ruling out the possibility of high nitrate concentration in the water due to improper sewage disposal. In fact, sardines were observed at the surface of the water as if gasping for air. The excess of nutrients in the water can stimulate the growth of aquatic plants, especially algae, leading to water quality problems associated with eutrophication. A similar event took place in early May, with several puffer fish, permit, and bonefish dying on the island's Boca del Rio Beach. This unexpected incident was attributed to the massive influx of Sargasso affecting Ambergris Caye and most of the Belizean coast.
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There has been at least two fish kill in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Back in May, hundreds of dead fish including permit and bonefish surfaced on the Boca Del Rio Beach. And about a week ago, dead fish surfaced on the lagoon in San Pedro Town, including snappers and barracudas. Local authorities on the island have been investigating and suspect that the presence of sargassum in the waters may have caused the fish kills. Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade confirmed that the sargassum has a part in the fish kill.
Beverly Wade, Administrator, Fisheries Department
"The sargassum phenomenon has been affecting not only Belize, the entire Yucatan Peninsula, the Eastern Caribbean countries, for a number of years now. And so there is a task force that is commissioned through the Ministry of Tourism that we also sit on, along with other government agencies, to work with stakeholders and see how you can try and manage it. But with regards to the fish kill, unfortunately when you have conditions that come together you will have that kind of thing in nature. My understanding that along with the sargassum, when it is breaking down it makes the water very low in oxygen. If you noticed from the video, a lot of the fish were gasping for air and so it was a situation where there was a day with low tide and a lot of the fish got trapped in a very low bay area. There wasn't the flushing activity which allows for fresh water and oxygen to be passing through and with the actual decomposition of the sargassum that was there it creates an anoxic environment and so that is what happened. It is something that is short term.�� We are grateful that in Belize we are not as heavily impacted as in other countries."