Cause of death of marine animals cannot be revealed yet – MEPA Chairperson

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) while updating on the burnt X-Press Pearl feeder that caused serious ecological damage to Sri Lanka, Friday (18) said they cannot reveal the cause of deaths of the sea creatures nor reveal the number of dead marine life beached in the past weeks as they have filed litigation against the X-Press feeder operators.

 A team of experts on marine life and pollution including MEPA Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Central Environmental Authority Director-General P.B. Hemantha Jayasinghe were present at the virtual media brief.

In this backdrop of where the public is not aware of what caused the death of the sea creatures, the fisheries industry has taken a severe hit, because consumers have refrained from eating fish in many parts of the island and that has inconvenienced the fishing community. Now, the public will have to wait until it is officially revealed in the lab report. 

MEPA Chairperson said they need to compare the beached sea creatures in the last years before concluding whether the sea creatures this time had died due to the acid leak and debris from the wrecked ship. “As it’s a legal case and the report is for legal purpose we cannot divulge all in-depth information but once the process is over, the report would be uploaded to the public domain and it would be public property,” MEPA Chairperson noted.

 The government authorities in the panel noted that several of the dead fish and sea turtles taken for laboratory testing were found dead with mouths wide open due to suffocation. They also explained in further tests they found the sea creatures with nurdles stuck in the throat, gills and stomach. 

There were also, questions raised about State Minister Nalaka Godahewa who told the media on Friday if sea creatures wash ashore during the tidal period it is normal. In response the expert team told the media that they have collected information and the report is now a legal document and cannot explain further. Lahandapura went on to say that they are continuing to monitor the wreck and assessing it as it is a long process. 

The team also said they have demanded to remove the containers that are still on the wreck but the salvors are unable to do anything at the moment due to the weather and the debris around the ship. “This ship is in the sea and we have demanded to remove the remaining burnt containers but the feeder operators told us they cannot do so as the sea is rough and for salvors, it’s difficult to attend to it. 

The team further said they cannot remove all the nurdles soon but the TriForces will do it with the support of the public. Dr. Jasinghe said they are studying Hong Kong and Norway to remove plastic pebbles and debris from their seashore and would do a study. “It cannot be done in two weeks or so,” he added. 

Even to remove all the raw material that have beached or in the ocean is a process that needs assessment, further study and survey, he added. MEPA chairman also added they still have doubts about the bunker oil of the ship that is about 300MT but, the captain of the salvage team said with the long-lasting fire heat and the smoke they suspect that the ship fuel may have exhausted. 

They have derived that as a primary conclusion, she noted. Also, with ongoing monitoring and testing the NARA has not found oil slick nor is bunker oil seeping into the ocean. “Now that the ship has sunk, the next stage is to remove the wreck but due to rough seas it could be lifethreatening to salvors. They cannot do it as of now, she added. Until such time the feeder operators have assigned a company as a caretaker of the ship who will be responsible for preventing pollution to the land, sea and air. “They will be taking care of the ship until it is removed by another assigned company.”  

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

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