Massive Molasses Spill Kills Thousands of Fish in Hawaii

Around 1,400 tons of sugary liquid oozed out of a leaky pipe, smothering tropical fish, eels and crabs

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Dennis Oda / AP

Placido Shim holds up dead fish found in Honolulu Harbor after a molasses spill in Hawaii, Sept. 10, 2013.

The Hawaii Department of Health issued a press release on Monday that may have one of the strangest opening lines in any organization’s history: “The brown substance that is contaminating much of Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon and is the apparent cause of death for many marine animals, is molasses.” 1,400 tons of molasses to be exact. It oozed out of a pipe that normally connects storage tanks to ships, but thanks to a hole in the pipe’s side, it released a plume of the sticky, brown substance across the seabed, smothering thousands of tropical fish, eels and crabs in a sugary death.

Officials have warned locals to stay out of the water, as the thousands of fish carcasses may attract hungry sharks and barracuda. They also expect the yellowish-brown plume to stain the water for weeks. In the meantime, it looks like Hawaiians will have to get used to nightly news footage of sugar-coated fish, flexing their gills in distress and floating to the surface of Keehi Lagoon belly-up.

[Associated Press]