Friday, September 20, 2013

Hawaii’s Molasses Spill: How old was the age of marine life?

The recent molasses spill has left the Honolulu Harbor a murky brown soup full of dead or dying marine life. Over 233,000 gallons of molasses has been released into the harbor over the last week, resulting in over 25,000 fish killed.

Matson Shipping Company have claimed responsibility for the spill and have reported to be footing the bill of the cleanup without any impact on their customers or Hawaiian taxpayers. Reports have claimed that there have been no cases of endangered species been affected by the spill. It has also been determined that the oxygen levels within the harbor have started to recover. So from all this information being provided, it could be said that the harbor is on its way to recovery with the help of Matson funding the operation. But a big question still remains elusive, how long will it take for the harbors ecosystem to recover?
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At this present moment, it could be assumed that the harbor has purged the majority of its marine life from the spill. So far, there have been no reports on the ages of the fish and other marine life killed. Why would this be important? Judging from the pictures which have been taken of the dead marine life, it could be speculated that there were varying ages of fish ranging from juveniles to late adults. The recovery of juvenile fish populations should recover initially, but what of the large adult individuals.
Mark mentioned in a previous blog a study that explored the longevity of fish including the goby species. In this study, they found that gobies can live up to 11 years, which is a decent effort for a small fish near the bottom of the food chain. However there are many other species which can live for a considerable amount of time, some as long as 70 years! Some of these individuals could have been present in the harbor before the spill occurred. These individuals could have had a specific role in the ecosystem such as controlling another species population. This could change the dynamics of the recovering ecosystem, therefore changing how the ecosystem functions. This could beg the question, will the harbor actually recover to its previous state or will it take on a new dynamic? For better or worse, we do not know, we may just have to wait and find out.

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