Mass death of fish in Baram River, Sarawak
Dead fish from the Baram river are being sold at markets around Miri City (Picture: BRIMAS)
By BRIMAS, Miri / Sarawak (Malaysia)
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) is shocked with another wave of mysterious death of fish in Sarawak. Over the last few days, Hundreds of fish were found dying in Baram River, particularly around the Kuala Baram area.
BRIMAS Officers have conducted field visits and investigation in the area and was surprised to see several species of freshwater fish were dying in the river. The fish species that were found dying are locally known as Ikan Baung, Ikan Burih, Ikan Tapah, Ikan Padi as to mention few. Also found are various types of prawns. Through our observation, most of the fish seem weak, tired and having difficulty in breathing. As a result the fish surfaced for air but after sometime suffocated to death. Also, the fish were appeared blind.
Our officers have conducted site examination on some of the dead fishes, particularly checking their gills. BRIMAS found that the gills of the fishes were not clogged with mud or blocked by silt. Within the stomach or intestines of the dead fish were not contain with mud but seems watery.
Regarding the condition of Baram River, BRIMAS Officers noticed that the water was murky. According to some local villagers at the Kuala Baram area, they have not seen any different to the water as over the past years the river has always being brownish, muddy and polluted with silt due to logging, oil palm plantations and industrial development activities. BRIMAS has collected some water sample from Baram River for further investigation and necessary actions.
BRIMAS is concerned with the safety of villages and members of longhouses community along the Baram River. These people are exposed to danger and environmental disaster as they are entirely depends on Baram River for their daily livelihood. BRIMAS has seen the people are scooping the floating fish as well as collected the dying fishes in Kuala Baram. It is alarming to notice that these fish were sold at local markets around Miri City here. The fish were weighted up to 10 Kg. Innocent members of public could have bought and consumed the fishes and prawns which could harm their health.
BRIMAS is appalled with the reoccurrence of massive death of fish in Sarawak Rivers. It seems that the major rivers through out the State are affected by mysterious phenomenon. This seems like a wave of destructive incident affecting all of our rivers as it occurrences is from one to another. These series of mysterious death of fish had occurred twice in Bakun dam project area in Belaga, then Balleh and last week it was in Mukah River.
With this new incident in Kuala Baram, based on our site investigations and observation BRIMAS has identified the possibility sources and culprits that cause these incidents. However, BRIMAS would rather not to pinpoint at the culprits but allows the relevant authorities to carry their task independently.
Urgently, BRIMAS urges the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to conduct thorough investigations to find out the causes to the death of the fish. The reports of the investigations must be made public as the nature of this mysterious phenomenon is of public interest and concerns.
BRIMAS supports the NREB to take actions and without fear in enforcing the law against the culprits or the responsible parties so that these incidents will not recur in future.
(20 February 2009)