Mystery bacterium killing Kuwaits fish
Kuwaiti fishermen are facing financial ruin after more than 2,000
tonnes of dead fish have been washed ashore, after succumbing to
an unexplained fate.
Despite launching several investigations into the month-long environmental
disaster, the Kuwaiti government has admitted they are unsure as
to what has caused the deaths in the Gulf waters. Government officials
have said that a Streptococcus bacterium from Kuwait City was responsible
for the disaster, but the source of the bacteria has yet to be identified.
Minister Mohammad Sharar explained that the government has sent
samples of the dead fish abroad for analysis. "Results are
with scientists and they are studying the phenomenon," he said.
"It is difficult to know when they will present their final
Fishing is a
major industry in Kuwait, second only to the oil industry, and some
4,000 fishermen depend on the Gulf water fish for their livelihoods.
Earlier this month the government banned fishing and deployed the
military to help clean up the millions of rotting fish strewn along
disease is extremely rare in saltwater fish. In August 1999, a massive
fish-kill around the islands of the southern Caribbean was traced
to the bacterium Streptococcus iniae, the first time ever in the
open ocean. Officials believed that a higher-than-normal seawater
temperature was a strong possibility for the outbreak in 1999. One
local Grenadine scientist suggested that the extreme summer heat
in August killed the fish. Water temperatures are also being measured
as one theory triggering the bacterial stress and growth in the
experts and newspapers have attributed the blame to the alleged
pumping of raw sewage into the Gulf. The presence of raw sewage
in such an ecosystem has been linked with increased algal blooms,
that could deprive the fish of oxygen and cause such a scenario.
A third possibility
points towards the dumping of waste from the oil industry. Interestingly,
an early report from the Caribbean outbreak in 1999 indicated "the
dumping of hazardous chemicals and toxic waste from a cruise line
Signs of streptococcal
disease in fish are abnormal behaviour, such as erratic swimming,
whirling motion at the surface of the water, darkening of the skin,
blindness, pop-eyes and small lesions on the fishs body, fins and
anus. Antibiotics are currently used to control the streptococcal
bacterium, which causes $150 million a year in losses worldwide.
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