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A molasses spill caused by faulty Matson Inc. molasses pipeline under Pier 52 at Honolulu Harbor resulted in thousand of fishing dying, officials said.

“There are two large reservoirs that contain molasses and during the loading of molasses into a ship last Monday morning an amount of molasses spilled into the harbor,” said Gary Gill deputy director for the Department of Health (DoH).

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The DoH said they spilled 1,400 tons, which is more than 200,000 gallons of thick sugar water. Biologists say the molasses is sinking to the ocean floor causing deep water fish to swim up the surface.

“They are trying to get away from the deeper water where they normally live because there’s an environmental change down there. It’s either low in oxygen or something is affecting their ability to breathe and it’s causing them to come up to the surface and into our shore,” said aquatic biologist Dave Gulko.

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said those severe environmental impacts are going to be long term. Nutrient rich molasses could cause an unusual increase in harmful bacteria and algae. But, the DoH said it doesn’t know how to clean up the mess, so it’ll let nature take its course, which means they will wait for the thick sugar water to dissolve.

“It’s not like an oil spill where the oil will rise to the surface and it can be skimmed out mechanically. There’s no way that we’ve identified to reduce the molasses that’s already in the water,” Gill said.

Matson released a statement saying, “Matson regrets that the incident impacted many harbor users, as well as wildlife. We take our role as an environmental steward very seriously…”

DoH officials are warning everyone to stay out of the water near the Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon because as the fish die it can cause an increase in sharks and barracudas.

The DoH is not sure what the consequences or fines for Matson will be.

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