On Friday morning, thousands of dead fish lay in the sun along Handsome Bay, Virgin Gorda, as frigate birds circled overhead and pelicans and seagulls perched on nearby rocks.
Other dead sea creatures on the shoreline included eels, a six-foot-long shark, lobsters, parrot fish and blowfish, to name a few.
Environmental officials believe the culprit was sargassum seaweed, which covered much of the bay on Friday and which has also been blamed for VG’s water shut-off this week.
In recent months, Handsome Bay has been among the areas hardest hit by the seaweed, and residents have held several cleanups there in part to battle the sulfur smell emitted by the decaying vegetation.
On Friday, the dead fish were in larger numbers along the southwest side of the bay near the Taddy Bay Airport. On the other side, near the Handsome Bay Desalination Plant, the sulfur smell wasn’t as strong, but a 14-foot-wide barrier of sargassum lined the beach.
Several bloated sea creatures with bulging eyes were entangled in the thick mat of seaweed.
Sheriece Smith, an information officer at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, said Friday that officials believe the fish kill resulted from oxygen depletion caused by the sargassum. More information will be forthcoming soon, Ms. Smith added.
The seaweed is also responsible for water lock-offs on VG since at least Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Communications and Works.
“A technical team was dispatched to the water plant in Virgin Gorda and reported that the vast amount of seaweed in the bay has caused the plant’s desalination process to become dysfunctional as a result of the thick seaweed film,” according to an MCW statement issued Thursday.
The ministry added that a team had been mobilised to remove the seaweed from the bay and that the water plant was expected to be in full operation by Saturday.
However, no work was ongoing Friday morning, though a WSD employee stood in the building near the desalination plant looking out over the bay.
Nearby, a stream of clear water trickled down an embankment from the plant, cutting a path through the seaweed back into the ocean. The water was clear and didn’t have any foul odor.
Two other men, who had learned about the dead fish on the Internet, walked up to the beach and snapped photos with their cell phones.
“What a waste, all those fish,” one man said. “Just think what is underneath all that seaweed.”
At the WSD’s offices at the Vanterpool Administration Building on Friday, another employee said water would be restored later that day.