Hundreds of fish suffocated in the water at Honolulu Harbor Monday. The Department of Health received the call to investigate a spill around 9 a.m., but it appears there's not much it can do to quickly return the water to pre-spill condition.
The scene in the water at Pier 38 looked chocolate brown and fish were seen struggling to stay alive.
"It seemed like they were trying to gasp for air, we saw Menpachi and Aweoweo," said Sachi Uehara, who witnessed the effects of the spill.
Palani and Weke were among the fish that died as well. Uehara said all kinds fish were swimming up to shore looking for an escape.
"There were I would say over 50 eels that were up at the surface that we could see," said Uehara.
"We have an unprecedented event here, I don't think anyone in Hawaii has had to deal with this here, certainly not in this century," said Gary Gill, Department of Health deputy director.
The Department of Health says it cannot confirm what kind of spill this is or where it started but it does have an idea.
"A vessel that was in the harbor earlier and left before sunrise was loaded with molasses, and it may have spilled during the loading operation or from the vessel itself," said Gil.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources said that Matson had self-reported a molasses spill. The DOH says the affected water spans over half of Honolulu Harbor.
"It looks like the oxygen is being removed from the harbor waters and the fish are dying because of lack of oxygen," says Gill.
A crew from the Pacific Environmental Corporation removed many of the dead fish along the shoreline. As for clean up, the plan is unclear.
"There's probably not much that we can do in terms of clean up other that hoping the natural tides and winds clean out the harbor over the next couple days," said Gill.
The DLNR is warning boaters and fishers to keep out of Keehi Lagoon waters. That's where the current appears to be moving the spilled substance to.