Based on the ongoing dry and hot weather associated with the current drought the island has been experiencing and based on measures being taken regarding the management of the Water Level of the Great Salt Pond it has been decided to issue an alert concerning Tilapia fish die off in the Great Salt Pond.
The Nature Foundation is assisting the VROMI Ministry in raising the water level of the Fresh and Great Salt Ponds considering the expectation of a higher than normal tide because of the full moon of the coming days. Based on the NOAA tidal tables a spring tide is expected which would mean an above normal tide by about two feet peaking on Tuesday at six am and subsiding gradually over the subsequent six hours. During this time seawater from the Great Bay entrance will be channelled into the ponds in order to raise the water levels which are dangerously low due to on-going drought conditions. Because the ecosystem is used to a saline to a saline-brackish environment there should be little negative effect on the ecosystems.
Regarding Tilapia; because of the dangerously low water levels in the Great Salt Pond Tilapia were dispersed in areas through the wetland. Once the floodgate was opened between the Fresh and Great Salt Ponds an increased number of tilapia could be seen by the Firgos Channel, many of which were already stressed by low oxygen, salinity and elevated water temperatures. These fish will eventually die because of the conditions caused by the drought. The area is already being cleaned and the fish disposed of considering the health effects on the communities surrounding that area of the wetland. Although unfortunate the reducing of the number of tilapia will have a positive effect on the ecosystem balance of the wetland considering they are an invasive species. This is confirmed by tilapia being the only species affected. Species such as Tarpon (bass) can be seen congregating in large numbers by the Great Bay Channel due to the influx of oxygenated water, which is very beneficial to the species.
The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation.