Red Sea Crabs Washed Ashore Dead Due to Pollution [Archives:1998/01/Local News]

January 5 1998

Famous ornithologist, David Stanton, visited the Tihama beach and noticed their was more evidence of ecological damage than just oily covered rocks on the shore. His sighting of a five kilometer or so stretch of swimming edible crabs adds fuel to an arguement that the effects of oil spills do not disappear overnight. He reported to the Yemen Times millions of crabs were washed ashore dead, in the region between Mokha and Khokha, in the southern Red Sea area. The mass killing of the faunaand marine life will continue unless tighter controls are placed on ocean going vessels that clean their hulls and empty pollutants. The association of crab deaths to the oil contaminated waters is not coincidence, and other contaminants like mercury poisoning might have a similar effect. “I am reminded of the mercury spills into salmon spawning grounds in the late seventies and the deletereous effect that it had on the salmon fisheries,” he said. The oil may disperse because of the tensioactive effect of the ocean current but if it covers fish spawning grounds or in this case the littorial zone of the sea where crabs congregate and reproduce, effects can be quite alarming. Mention was made that these crabs were not adults but the smaller juvenile form and a safe estimate was given at millions lost. In some places the crabs were piled up in heaps.Evidently the juveniles are more susceptable to the pollutant. No other fish was noticed on the stretch of dead crabs between Al Khokha and Al Mocha: they are similar to the blue crab in form except that the distance between their pincer-like claws are wider. Tar balls are not only present near Hodeidah but also to a lesser extent, along the Arabian Sea coast at Abayan beach. This may be due to dumping oil further away from the coast or to an older spill.