HONOLULU – Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The crews have collected about 2,000 dead fish in waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference.

A senior executive for the shipping company responsible, Matson Navigation Co., said it was taking responsibility but hadn’t planned ahead of time for the possibility of a spill.

Vic Angoco, senior vice president for Matson’s Pacific operations, said the company had been transporting molasses at the harbor for about 30 years. The spill occurred Monday in an industrial area where Matson loads molasses and other goods for shipping. The company said the leak occurred in a section of pipe that was not normally used.