Arriving at an atoll farther east, I brought my empty water bottles ashore and asked a local at the quay if he knew where I could fill them…He pointed me to the town hall building across the street where there was a tank with rainwater.
“And do you know which fish are safe to eat here?” I asked.
“None.” He replied. “Don’t eat any fish close to the village.”
“Yes. About 3 years ago, a cargo ship offloaded 50 sacs of fertilizer here. They sat on the quay in the rain for a week before the shop owner came to pick them up. Ever since then, little by little, all the fish here have ciguatera.”
“Wow,” I said. “What do people here do for fish?”
“It’s tough. We either have to buy fish from fishermen on the other atolls who come here, or go fishing on the very south end of our atoll, almost 35 miles away…”
So apparently, the fertilizer leached into the lagoon from the sacs and caused a bloom of ciguatera algae, which then worked its way up the food chain into all the lagoon fish!
…One simple human error with heavy costs for the local population…
“Well,” I thought to myself. “….At least the fish will get a break from being overfished!”
And I wandered off to refill my bottles…