x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fighting the red tide of algal blooms

Developing nations need to raise their ability to counter environmental threats, as the 2008 red tide of algal blooms that devastated the waters off Fujairah showed.

Developing nations need to raise their ability to counter threats to their environment. The 2008 red tide of algal blooms was a disaster of large proportions. The algae devastated the waters off Fujairah, bleaching coral reefs and dwindling fishing stocks that were already limited.

As reported today in The National, a research project has now catalogued the impact of the red tide. Fish schools dropped by more than two thirds, while only 10 per cent of hammour survived. Dead coral jumped from 8 per cent to 60 per cent. The study found that the killer marine algae is closely related to strains in the US and Malaysia and concluded that it had been brought here by ship ballast water.

One marine biologist commented that the reefs will eventually recover but only if there is some kind of control of the maritime industry. One suggestion is to adapt the same filtering technology currently used in the American Great Lakes to prevent the spread of pests.

But shipping is not the only villain. The study also pointed to climate change, which disturbs water temperature, acid levels and nutrients that affect the development of coral reefs.

Research such as this functions as a front line of defence for our fishing and tourism industries. Their findings may be grim but they also show that the country is developing institutions and methods to study and contend with the challenges of its growth.