Red tide off Penang not toxic, says scientist

12 Sep 2019 / 19:56 H.

GEORGE TOWN: The red tide in the waters off Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferrenghi was a harmless version of the algae bloom.

It is not the toxic strain, it is just harmless discolouration which looks orange or red, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan Shau Hwai said.

She said the ocean is a big biodiversity tub and at times cells of marine life could mutate, leading to an algae bloom on the surface.

But red tides could turn deadly and discharge toxins that kill marine life when there is a sudden population explosion of a toxin-producing micro algae.

This happened in the waters off Sabah in 2015.

Tan said marine life could still grow in the seas off Penang, but more could be done to check pollution.

"We must be reminded that climate change affects all nations and everyone.

“At the same time, we must address the matter with facts and figures; with scientific arguments rather than emotions or hidden agendas."

Tan said degradation of the waters was due to a combination of factors.

Reclamation of land could affect the water quality but there are also contributing factors such as over-fishing, discharge of excess nutrients which would eventually rest at the seabed and other forms of waste, she said.

Essentially, there is a cost to bear for any human activity off the coast, Tan said.

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