It is still unclear why masses of fish are dying in the German-Polish border river Oder. In the meantime, the environmental catastrophe is becoming a stress test for German-Polish relations. When Germany reports increased pesticide levels, Warsaw reacts with sharp tones.
While the extent of the fish deaths on the Oder is becoming increasingly clear, further upsets in German-Polish relations became apparent over the weekend. In connection with an investigation result from Brandenburg, the Polish Environment Minister explained that there were false reports in Germany. Poland's national conservative PiS government is currently under pressure because Polish authorities were hesitant to respond to the first indications of the fish kill.
By Saturday, around 200 tons of dead fish had been collected in Poland and Germany. The Polish fire brigade put the amount on Saturday at 158 tons. According to an earlier report by the Ministry of the Environment, there were at least 36 tons in Brandenburg. According to the Ministry of the Interior in Warsaw, more than 3,000 firefighters, more than 2,000 police officers and 1,300 soldiers were deployed in Poland to recover the carcasses.
It is still unclear why the fish died. When looking for possible causes, German authorities also came across excessive pesticide levels. Brandenburg's Environment Ministry announced that samples taken at the Frankfurt (Oder) measuring point between August 7th and 9th found high concentrations of a pesticide containing the active ingredient 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. However, it can be assumed that the detected dose was not immediately fatal to fish. The active ingredient is used, for example, to combat weeds.
The Ministry continues to assume that the environmental disaster has several causes. The excessive concentration of the pesticide over several days certainly had an impact on animals, plants and microorganisms. It is possible that the herbicide was present in even higher concentrations in the upper reaches of the Oder and was already heavily diluted at the Frankfurt (Oder) measuring point, it said.
The Polish government now spoke of false reports from Germany. "Warning, another fake news is being spread in Germany!!! Pesticides and herbicides. In Poland, the substance was tested and found to be below the limit of quantification, i.e. with no effects on fish or other animals, and no connection to fish kills," wrote Environment Minister Anna Moskwa on Saturday night on Twitter. The substances were not detected in fish, Moskva said in another tweet. "An unwarranted attack on agriculture. First industry, now agriculture? What next?"
In Germany it was criticized that Polish authorities had not complied with the internationally agreed information chains. Representatives of the PiS repeatedly responded with anti-German tones. Meanwhile, a statement by the regional head of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Zbiegniew Bogucki, gave some hope. Accordingly, living fish can be seen again. "Where we recovered tons of dead fish a few days ago, live fish have now appeared," wrote Bogucki on Twitter.
However, due to a lack of oxygen in the water, many fish are on the verge of suffocation and swim close to the surface. The politician posted a video showing this. Bogucki wrote in another tweet that he had contacted the local fire brigade to try to aerate the water with pumps. The mass death of fish in the border river Oder became known on the German side on August 9th.
Scientists say a toxic species of algae could be a factor in fish kills. Various other substances are also being investigated. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania announced on Friday that no abnormalities had been found when examining samples in the German part of the Szczecin Lagoon, into which the Oder flows.