Hawaii warns huge molasses spill could draw sharks

Sept 12 Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:27am EDT

Sept 12 (Reuters) - Health officials warned swimmers, surfers and snorkelers to stay out of the waters near Honolulu after a leak of 1,400 tons of molasses killed hundreds of fish, potentially attracting sharks.

So many fish had died by Thursday that the Hawaii Department of Health tripled cleanup crews to three boats, which removed hundreds of fish and were expected to remove thousands more, the department said in a statement.

A brown plume was spotted seeping into Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon on Monday after a ship hauling molasses to the West Coast pulled out to sea.

By Tuesday, a leak was discovered in a molasses pipeline used to load the sweet, sticky liquid onto ships operated by Matson Navigation Company, the international ocean transport company, the health department said. Matson Navigation Company is a subsidiary of Matson Inc

Matson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"While molasses is not harmful to the public directly, the substance is polluting the water, causing fish to die and could lead to an increase in predator species such as sharks, barracuda and eels," the health department said in a statement.

Another environmental danger posed by the spill of the by-product of the refining of sugarcane was "an unusual growth in marine algae" and harmful bacteria, the health department said.

The department posted signs on beaches warning people to stay out of the water and not to consume any dead fish found in the area. The brown plume was expected to remain visible for weeks while natural tides and currents slowly flush the area, the department said.