Institute of Marine Affairs debunks social media rumour: The seas are not boiling

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

OCEAN WORLD: Seventy per cent of the planet is ocean which our species has already impacted. A view of the sea off Little Tobago. – Pat Ganase

The seas are not boiling, contrary to what is being said on social media, the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) said in a conversation with Newsday on Sunday.

The clarification came after social media was flooded with videos of people catching hundreds of fish with their bare hands on the shores in Mayaro. Along with the video was a message which said: “Apparently the water is now so hot that the fish are swimming towards the shore and inadvertently beaching themselves…Climate crisis is hitting the Caribbean.”

The social media message said the purported phenomenon has been happening since Friday.

However, Dr Faranhaz Solomon of the IMA said what was seen in the video was not a result of the heating of the water. She said it was a common practice called a “fish seine,” which is normally done when schools of fish migrate close to the shore.

Solomon explained that schooling fish, such as the cavalli seen in the video, come close to shore at certain periods for the year.

“They come close to shore for spawning or feeding,” she said.

She said the fishermen would use nets to cordon off the fish and catch them on the shore. It is not only common to Mayaro, but several places in Trinidad and Tobago, including Castara, Tobago.

She said when the water gets too hot, that results in the fish coming ashore dead.

“When you have fish kills that are due to heat, the water gets hot, the oxygen levels drop and then the fish die.

“In this, it seems as if the fish were alive. There were parts of this video that showed some fish dead, but if you look, you would realise it is a large catch and they were on shore for a long while, which would have resulted in some dying.”

Solomon said while there have not been any sightings of fish kills due to high heat in TT, there have been reports in the US. Florida news channels have reported that a rash of fish-kill reports are raising concerns over high heat in their waters.

The Miami Herald reported that about 60 fish kills have been noted over the past month along the small islands of the Florida Keys. The report said, however, that the kills were of smaller fish that live close to shore and are more susceptible to changes in temperature.

Solomon advised that people who have spotted dead fish on TT’s shores should contact the IMA.