Molasses-fish kill necropsy results in

USGS tests tissue samples of eels, fish, shrimp coral

 UPDATED 7:31 PM HST Sep 27, 2013
HONOLULU -

It's all about getting to dying fish--fast.

An immediate necropsy is key to getting the best clues about the molasses fish kill.

Of the tens of thousands of dead and dying fish found in Honolulu Harbor, about 15 made it into the federal laboratories of wildlife specialist Thierry Work in the early days of the disaster.

"These fish decompose rapidly. The minute they die, the tissues start decomposing," said Work.

Pouring over fish parts is part of the daily grind in the U.S. Geological Survey facility.

But as part of the molasses study, Work  performed a necropsy on an eel and coral and a variety of fish.

 

“Gobis, we had a goat fish. We some aveoveo, and we had some shrimps that they found that were acting abnormally they were at the surface trying to breathe,” Work said.

The fish tissues including the gills were sent to a mainland lab.

The results arrived yesterday and Work will spend the weekend analyzing them.

"These tests are really expensive so we can’t afford to do every laboratory tests for everything," he said.

But according to Work, the initial snapshot is that the fish were deprived of oxygen.

"Basically it was a non-selective cause of death. When you take away oxygen, everything dies it’s a classic case of killing of animals," said Work.

The telltale sign was dark-colored gills.

"When you start running out of air you turn blue. Your skin turns blue, nails turn blue. In fish, when you have gills bright red, they become dark red because there is no oxygen in the blood to make it red," said Work.

The spill didn’t appear to threaten  a green sea turtle swimming near the Reef runway. There had also been a sighting of a monk seal in the area.

But Work would like to think this massive fish and coral kill will help guide new policies to protect the marine environment.

"I'm hoping. Lord knows we need to have increased awareness because we are not treating our coastlines very well," Work said.

On Thursday, the state disposed of the 5,000 pounds of rotting fish under a plan to turn the remains into organic fertilizer.

But scientists are still watching the sea floor and reefs closely.

"We know there was a huge die-off of fish, and a large amount of coral died How it recovers, no one really knows," said Work.

 

 

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