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DEAD fish washed up along the shores of Pågo Bay last week. This has raised red flags with members of the community ranging from scientists to island leaders in the Legislature.
An email and photos the Variety obtained showed several marine animals discovered dead and rotting away along the shores of Pågo Bay.
Professor Jason Biggs, from the University of Guam’s Marine Lab, said he received the email from a student and was alarmed.
Biggs said he spoke to Brent Tibbats of the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources and was informed the incident occurs around this time of the year.
Biggs said he was told that when tides are low during the day, the water heats up and results in a drastic decrease of oxygen in the water.
“Salinity increases as the hot seawater evaporates. And if it rains really hard, all of these change at a rate that is too much for many animals. Salinity and temperatures drop, and oxygen rises when it rains hard enough. But it distresses me when we just toss out an answer when we haven't even examined the fish in question. Even our students forget to collect evidence,” he said.
Biggs admits he is suspicious of what happened, based on his research on the impacts of land-based chemicals on reef fish. “This is quite new to the island and almost nothing is known. What I do know is that I have never seen this at Pågo Bay before,” Biggs said, adding he was told of a similar incident that occurred outside the Hagåtña Marina back in March.
Sen. Sam Mabini is especially concerned, having lived in the Pågo Bay area before residing in Maina.
“I know that depending on rainy conditions, the bay can get very cloudy because of runoff. But I’ve never seen, at least when I lived there, this degree of devastation,” the senator said.
Mabini has already sent a letter expressing her concerns to Guam Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Eric Palacios.
Meanwhile, GEPA spokesperson Tammy Jo Anderson Taft said the agency is aware of the incident.
“Our monitoring team is meeting with DAWR this week to review the situation and review our protocol for responding to this type of situation,” Taft said, adding they received the information via email.
She explained that when they hear about such events, they go out and conduct testing that is different from the beach bacteria testing done for GEPA’s weekly pollution report.
“In this case, they will determine if they can conduct any tests that would be helpful,” she said.
Fishermen’s Co-op President Manny Duenas also commented on the incident.
“Salinity is a major factor as well as sedimentation and runoff,” he said. “That’s what we try to press upon people who don’t understand fishing on Guam. You can create protected areas, but if you don’t provide the habitat for the fish to live in, then it’s no use. This is a prime example in Pågo Bay and in other places,” he said. “We’re hoping the government will step up to the plate and consider other issues,” he added.
Biggs, in the meantime, is asking for residents to bag and freeze dead fish they discover along the shore and then notify the UOG Marine Lab for further analysis.