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Wednesday 18 October 2017
Local

EMA, Coast Guard: Stay away from ‘floating island’

The EMA says this “floating island” seen off Cedros last week is floating vegetation washed into local waters from the Orinoco River, Venezuela.

The Coast Guard and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) are sending strong warnings to the public to stay away from a “floating island” sighted off the coast of Icacos in the south western peninsula.

“We don’t know exactly what it is, what’s under that mass and what dangers it poses to small boats, pirouges and pleasure crafts,” Public Affairs Officer of the Coast Guard Lt Sherron Manswell advised yesterday. Manswell said based on the currents, the land mass was moving from east to west and poses a potential threat to vessels at sea. He is urging seafarers to be aware of the location and avoid it.

However, the EMA in a statement last evening described the island as “floating vegetation”.

“This is a natural phenomenon that can occasionally occur during the rainy season, when as a result of increased flow in the rivers on the South American continent, masses of coastal vegetation can become dislodged and transported with the ocean currents...these masses of coastal vegetation often contain both flora and fauna from the place of origin,” explained the EMA

The authority cautioned against exploring the floating masses.

“The general public is therefore advised against exploring these masses of coastal vegetation, especially given that the plants or animals that they may contain are unknown.” On Monday, fishermen off the coast of Islote Point in Chatham spotted “three floating islands”, one large mass with tall green trees and shrubs and two smaller ones. At first they thought it was a mass of water lilies which wash ashore on the beaches on the southern and south western coasts of Trinidad whenever the Orinoco River in Venezuela overflows.

By Thursday, one of the small masses seemed to sunk while the other two floated towards Icacos. The larger land mass averaged about two acres, according to fishermen and the smaller one had made its way to Columbus Bay, off the coast of Icacos, near Soldado Rock. Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh observed the “islands” on Thursday and said as they move further out to sea they could become lodged in one of the oil installations in the Gulf of Paria.

Teelucksingh suggested a “blinkie” or navigational light with a GPS should be placed on the “island” so its movements can be tracked by the Coast Guard and other agencies. He reported a fisherman who visited the island caught three iguanas and related to him that the vegetation is healthy. State-owned oil company Petrotrin yesterday said it is monitoring the land mass.

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