x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Kuwaiti expert to battle red tide

A Kuwaiti environmental expert has joined a government task force investigating the cause of the red tide algae in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // A Kuwaiti environmental expert has joined a government task force investigating the cause of the red tide algae that is plaguing the UAE's north-east coast, killing fish and coral reefs. The phenomenon, which has spread along the region's coastline during the past two months, is threatening the tourism industry, with scuba divers and swimmers reluctant to venture out into the foul-smelling water.

The Ministry of Environment and Water said yesterday it was carrying out extensive studies to discover the cause of the red tide and work out measures to prevent it happening again if possible. The news came amid reports that the Dibba al Fujairah Municipality had found the area affected by the algae had begun to shrink. The area around Dibba is home to a wide variety of marine flora and fauna, including sea turtles, but has been invaded by the algae, which stretches about 8km offshore and has turned the water a murky red.

The outbreak has already been blamed for the death of hundreds of tonnes of fish and last week scuba divers reported coral in the Dibba Rock area was showing signs of bleaching, indicating the coral is dying. Experts believe the bleaching may be caused by the algal bloom attacking the tiny microorganisms which provide the coral with its vivid colours. Obaid al Matroushi, a ministry undersecretary for fisheries, said a national task force had toured the affected areas to collect samples and monitor the coastlines in order to establish the cause of the destructive algae column.

"The ministry has sought the assistance of Dr Muna Hussein, of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, to offer technical advice on the issue," he said. "Experts from the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Fishermen's Societies in the eastern region are also assisting the Government in the study." The task force has used satellite data and images, provided by the Kuwait-based Regional Organisation for Protection of Marine Environment, to identify the extent of the affected zone, according to the state news agency, WAM.

Samples taken from the deadly algal bloom had been sent to the UAE University's college of science for chemical and biological examination, WAM added. EAD studies found the increasing occurrence of algal blooms was probably due to natural and anthropological factors, said WAM. "It is likely that human activities such as dredging, land reclamation and land filling are making the situation worse by increasing nutrient levels of the water by way of dust," WAM reported.

"Moreover, the discharge of ballast water from ships may have resulted in the introduction of new bloom-forming species." chamilton@thenational.ae