Another Rio Cobre fish kill irks fisherfolk

July 19, 2023
Rio Cobre fisherman Christopher Barrett shows dead fish taken from the river on Tuesday.
Rio Cobre fisherman Christopher Barrett shows dead fish taken from the river on Tuesday.

Several fishermen who ply their trade in Gregory Park, Portmore, utilising the Rio Cobre, have had to put their livelihoods on hold because of a massive fish kill.

According to the fishermen who spoke with THE STAR on Sunday, they witnessed black coloured water flowing into the river in the vicinity of some factories. The fishermen disclosed that by Monday morning, they saw hundreds of fish fluttering in the water, before they ended up floating lifelessly on the water's surface, intertwined with the river lilies.

"When mi go to the river to fish, mi notice sey the water change, and have a black look, and mi see the fish dem start to float and some jumping out of the water and landed on the riverbank," said Christopher Barrett, who has been fishing in the Rio Cobre for more than 30 years.

"Mi sey to miself, 'no man something nuh right' and mi come out of the water and then mi see fish, shrimp, and crab everything a dead," he told THE STAR.

Barrett, a licensed fisherman who pays a yearly fee of $3,000, said he depends on fishing to feed his family.

"Mi nuh have no other source of income. Mi depend on the river to eat food so they have to put a stopping to this," he said.

Anthony Brown, who has depended on the Rio Cobre for more than 34 years, said efforts should be made to find out the source of the contamination and demand that the guilty parties pay some form of compensation to the fishermen. The fishermen are also calling for some form of income replacement in the interim.

"Every time bad water let go in the river, it kill off the fish dem. A the river we live off. We picked up hundreds of pounds of dead fish since Sunday and the stench bad," Barrett stated.

President of Friends of the Rio Cobre, Kestonard Gordon, condemned the corporate entities that operate their factories close to the riverbank.

"They operate with no regard for the environment and the fish life in the river, and this is disturbing," Gordon said.

He also criticised the National Environment and Planning Agency for not publicising the results of tests carried out in May after a similar fish kill, arguing that the source of the contaminant remains a mystery.

- R.M.

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