First test results: Fish in the Oder did not die of mercury

Fish are dying in large numbers in the Oder.

First test results: Fish in the Oder did not die of mercury

Fish are dying in large numbers in the Oder. The reason is so far unclear. According to Polish information, initial investigations rule out excessive mercury levels as the cause. Brandenburg's Environment Minister Vogel speaks of "very much increased salt loads" in the river.

According to the Polish government, increased mercury levels are not the cause of the fish deaths in the Oder. This was the result of the first toxicological test results from samples of dead fish, wrote Poland's Environment Minister Anna Moskwa on Twitter.

"The State Veterinary Institute tested seven species. It ruled out mercury as a cause of fish kills." We are now waiting for the results of tests for other pollutants.

Meanwhile, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has acknowledged initial problems in working with Poland to clarify the fish kill. The Green politician is now striving for better coordination. "The question of German-Polish cooperation obviously didn't work at this point (...), otherwise we would have received information earlier, at least from the state of Brandenburg or the neighboring municipalities," said Lemke in Frankfurt (Oder). There, helpers had collected many dead fish from the shore. Brandenburg had also openly criticized that it had not been informed by the Polish authorities.

Lemke was moved by what the official and volunteer helpers had achieved and thanked them. "You also have to thank the anglers, who obviously drew attention to this very quickly after noticing the first dead fish." Citizens reacted attentively here, even without knowing the reasons for the deaths. The still existing ignorance about the extent of the catastrophe, the length and the consequences for the food chain and nature, "that drives me massively," said Lemke.

The death of fish in the Oder has been worrying people who live on the river in Poland and Germany for days. According to government information, Polish authorities had already received the first indications at the end of July that masses of dead fish were floating in the river.

The cause of the fish kill is still unclear. According to information from Brandenburg's Environment Minister Axel Vogel from the Greens, the Oder has "very much increased salt loads". "According to current knowledge, however, it will not be a single factor that caused the fish kill in the Oder," says a statement. The term salt loads refers to salts dissolved in the water.

Poland's government suspects that the river was poisoned with chemical waste. The Polish police have offered a reward of the equivalent of 210,000 euros for the investigation.

Poland's government and authorities are under pressure because they have reacted too hesitantly to the fish kill. On Friday evening, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had therefore dismissed the head of the water authority and the head of the environmental authority. He does not rule out further personnel consequences, said the head of government. Morawiecki admitted that he only found out about the massive fish kill on August 10th. "I was definitely informed too late."

In the meantime, hundreds of helpers collected the dead animals in eastern Brandenburg. Around 300 emergency services are on the move in the Märkisch-Oderland district for around 80 kilometers along the shore, as the district spokesman Thomas Rubin said. "I reckon with several tons of fish that we get out."

(This article was first published on Saturday, August 13, 2022.)

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