BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 8 Nov 2009
A gradual return of marine life is visible on the east coast of the UAE, as the coral reefs have begun recovering from the negative impacts of the red tide phenomenon that has been stretching for months in the waters of the eastern region.
The red tide is a reddish discolouration of coastal surface waters due to concentrations of toxin-producing algae, which are fatal to many forms of marine life. In such a situation, fishing grounds are closed to prevent the harvest of any contaminated shellfish.
The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) had been making efforts to control the phenomenon that spread widely across the coast, especially in Dibba, Fujairah, Kalba and Khor Fukhan areas.
The movement of the red tide phenomenon has reduced significantly, according to recent studies, which reveal the phenomenon is not causing desertification of the marine environment now, says the MoEW sources.
Dr Maryam Hassan Al Shenasi, Executive Director for Technical Affairs at MoEW, said that the spread of the red tide phenomenon was closely monitored by the ministry. "It is a natural phenomenon and the growth and reproduction of coral reefs in red tide areas have been affected badly in the eastern coastal zone for more than five months," she revealed.
She added, "Studies conducted in the affected areas by the Centre for Marine Environmental Research (CMER) at the MoEW, indicate that the aquatic life is on the path of recovery from adversities, so coral species have now started branching out."
"Meanwhile, the study has not yet disclosed the red tide's severe effects on the coral species that have the ability to withstand strong currents, hurricanes, or low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water," she added.
According to Al Shenasi, the negative impacts during the period of simultaneous occurrence of the phenomenon had resulted in lowering the ability of coral reef to grow and shelter a variety of aquatic creatures in the marine eco-system.
She referred to other red tide affected coastal areas in the world, a phenomenon, which had started to appear frequently with high density in different parts of the world during the last two years.
"The Gulf of Mexico was subjected to the phenomenon for a period exceeding 12 months, but now the coast is returning to its normal marine environment," she noted.
"The UAE's eastern coastal zone is currently booming with a wide variety of fish reserves provided of course, the season of migration of some fish species. As fishing activities play a key role in maintaining overall living aquatic resources, fishermen are allowed to catch large-sized items, but commercial fishing of small fishes is controlled in order to maintain sufficient fish stocks and develop a sustainable marine environment," explained Al Shenasi.
Dr Ibrahim Al Jamali, director of the CMER, said, "In order to facilitate control of the phenomenon, the CMER had collected samples from the red tide for conducting further analysis and check out the reasons."
"The red tide has become prevalent in the upper layers of water from one to five metres depth, and the number of the algae cells, between 3,000 and 200,000 per litre. The samples have been tested for vesicles accounting for 20 to 30 per cent of each litre of affected water," he added.
According to him, the major reasons for the red tide phenomenon are anarchic climatic change, global warming, the tsunami effect and the increased human activities in the ocean.
"The influence of these factors, directly or indirectly, causes pollution of the marine environment leading to inappropriate aquatic conditions and depletion of nutrients that are needed for the growth of the marine species," he pointed out.