The Fisheries Department has called for action to reduce pollution in Erakor Lagoon, as local health staff report more than three fish poisoning cases a day over the past three months.
The nurse in charge at the Erakor Dispensary, Berry Emil, says people are getting fish poisoning from eating fish caught in the Erakor Lagoon, which is polluted by run-off waste from surrounding areas.
He says every week; the dispensary is busy treating patients with fish poisoning and he believes other clinics close by are also experiencing a rise in fish poisoning cases.
“This year, many people have got fish poisoning from eating contaminated fish caught from the lagoon,” he said.
“I give them medicine to reduce the effects of the fish poisoning, but for the patients who are seriously ill, I have had to admit them to the clinic for more treatment.
“And for those who are very ill, I need to treat them for two to three days.”
Nurse Emil says people eating shell fish and crabs caught in the lagoon are also coming to the dispensary with food poisoning.
“People from Erakor have been enjoying fresh seafood from the lagoon for a long time but the lagoon is no longer safe,” he said.
“Now with the threat and impact of COVID-19, life is getting harder and people must eat healthy food so they don’t get sick.
“There are other people from other islands in Vanuatu who are living at Erakor Village and so it is very important for concerned authorities to address the pollution issue in the Erakor Lagoon.”
VBTC witnessed a local from Erakor, Enock Yatiknu, being admitted to the hospital the third time for fish poisoning from eating fish from the lagoon.
Mr Yatiknu says after eating the fish his body became weak.
“I feel dizzy, I want to vomit, I feel itchy and I feel very weak,” he said.
“We want the government to look at the pollution issue in the lagoon because many of our people in the village do not work for a fortnightly income and we depend on food from the garden and the sea.”
The Deputy Director of Fisheries Department, Sompert Gereva, says the department has advised that seafood caught or collected in the lagoon from Emten to Erakor Island is not safe to eat.
Mr Gereva says the waste waters dumped and washed from surrounding areas has polluted the water and contaminated marine resources in the lagoon.
“When a lot of waste enters a body of water that is not easily flushed out because it has only one entry and one exit, all fish in that lagoon will be affected and not safe to eat,” Mr Gereva said.
“Fish poisoning has been happening in the Erakor Lagoon for a long time now and it is a priority that the right information is shared with the public so they can make the right decisions.”
Mr Gereva says concerned authorities must act now to reduce waste entering the lagoon.
“In Vanuatu we know that responding to natural disasters takes time, but it is very important to look at the pollution issue at Erakor Lagoon,” he said.
“Today with the COVID-19 pandemic, people must make the right choices in life. When we advise people not to eat fish in an area, people need to take it seriously.
“It is a serious matter and the public must be made aware not to eat fish caught in that area. They should buy fish from the shops or from the market.”
Nurse Emil says people of all ages are getting fish poisoning from Erakor Lagoon, with patients aged from 20 to 60 years.