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Shark warning for Hawaii visitors

17 September 2013 08:52

It is feared that sharks may struggle to find enough food in the waters around Hawaii and so venture closer to shore

It is feared that sharks may struggle to find enough food in the waters around Hawaii and so venture closer to shore

Hawaii may seem like an idyllic tourist location but holidaymakers have been warned to be on the lookout for sharks and other hungry predators lurking in the sea.

Health officials have confirmed that 1,400 tonnes of treacle leaked into the water at Honolulu harbour, and it is creating chaos among the local marine wildlife.

The treacle, a thick sticky product known as molasses in the US, is produced at a sugar plantation on the island and it was being transported via a pipeline on to waiting ships when the leak occurred.

While the substance is not harmful to humans, it has formed a large slick in the water and has already killed hundreds of fish who struggle to breathe.

Video footage has emerged from the area which shows fish battling to break on to the surface of the water, but being unable to do so because of the slick. It is feared that thousands more fish and other marine wildlife could die.

Honolulu harbour and the Keehi Lagoon are both affected, and the slick is expected to remain visible for several weeks until the surf eventually breaks it up and it is flushed out to sea.

With fish stocks plunging, the risk to humans may be from sharks, barracuda and other predators who begin to get more desperate in their search for food.

It is feared they may be tempted to venture closer to shore, and signs have already been put up on beaches warning people to stay out of the water.

Some travel insurance will cover holidaymakers for the inconvenience of unexpected environmental changes at their destination.

The state health department said: "While molasses is not harmful to the public directly, the substance is polluting the water, causing fish to die and could lead to an increase in predator species such as sharks, barracuda and eels.

"In the meantime, health officials are worried that the sugary product could also cause an increase in the growth of algae."

The firm behind the leak, the Matson Navigation Company, has repaired the hole in its pipeline.