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Jakarta Post

Fear over stained fish grips Jayapura residents

  • Benny Mawel

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Tue, November 19, 2019   /   06:41 am
Fear over stained fish grips Jayapura residents Residents of Jayapura are worried about contaminated fish in the wake of a mining spill into the Basamuk Bay in Madang, Papua New Guinea. (Shutterstock/Rich Carey)

Concerns over contaminated fish have arisen among residents of Jayapura, Papua following a broadcast message about fish that have been contaminated by mining waste at a bay in Papua New Guinea.

Reuters reported in August that waste from the Ramu nickel plant, owned by the Metallurgical Corporation of China, in Madang, Papua New Guinea had spilled into the adjacent Basamuk Bay, as locals noticed red discharge clouding parts of the bay.

In a separate report in October, Reuters mentioned that results of an investigation into the spill by an Australian laboratory found no ongoing environmental impact. 

However, while Basamuk Bay has been declared safe for swimming and recreation, authorities ordered locals not to eat fish from the area for four to six weeks as the environmental agency had not declared whether any heavy metals had contaminated the food chain, as reported by Reuters.

Word of the pollution has reached residents of Jayapura -- located 638 kilometers from Madang -- and caused a stir among residents of the provincial capital of Papua.

“I heard news about dead fish due to the pollution and that it could reach this city. I’m now afraid of eating fish,” resident Veronika Uaga told The Jakarta Post recently.

She added that the news had forced her to tell her family, who live in a remote village in Papua, not to eat fish from the sea in order to avoid the risk of consuming contaminated food.

Read also: Indonesia, US declare new protected marine areas in North Maluku

Jayapura Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency head Martheys Sibi said authorities were monitoring the Hamadi fish market in the city regarding possible contamination of fish.

He added his office had yet to receive official reports from Jayapura residents and fishermen regarding either possible contamination of the fish or any change in the seawater color, which is a marker of possible contamination by a chemical substance.

“Should our staff receive any report of contaminated fish, we will check it in the laboratory to confirm whether the fish contains heavy chemicals or not,” Martheys said. He added the agency would coordinate with the National Fish Quarantine, Quality Control and Fishery Products Safety Agency to watch over fish being distributed at markets.

The administration has also coordinated with the Papua Fisheries Agency and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry to follow up on the potential contamination coming from Papua New Guinea.

Reuters reported on Oct. 24 that the Papua New Guinea administration had closed the nickel plant in Madang until the investigation into the spill in Basamuk Bay was completed. (kuk)