Scientists offer to help

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 20 Jul 2019

Working together: Prof Brian Helmuth from Northeastern University (centre, in shorts) explaining to students and officers from Cemacs before planting a permanent data logger on a rock in Teluk Bahang beach to record data on water pollution in the area.

GEORGE TOWN: Twenty scientists from various disciplines have offer­ed to help monitor marine pollution in Penang.

Made up of chemists, biologists, hydrologists and experts in plankton, fish diseases and nutrients in the water, the group told the state government it is willing to form a taskforce for the purpose.

Marine biologist Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said the team would have some of the best brains in their respective fields, and they come from various institutions, inclu­ding the Fisheries Department and Department of Environment.

Prof Tan, who is with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs), said the team proposed long-term and intensive monitoring.

“Intensive monitoring will be carried out every two weeks, whereas studies on heavy metals in the sea will be done once every three months.

“The taskforce has to start as soon as possible as we are quite certain that spikes in pollutants will happen again.

“With this taskforce, we will have baseline data to advise the government, tourism players, farmers and fishermen on the best way to create a balance in environment care as well as social and economic deve­lopment.

“With the data, it will be easier for the state to deal with pollution problems,” she said at Cemacs’ headquarters in Teluk Bahang yesterday.

Prof Tan said between April and June, mysterious pollutants caused prized fish bred in floating cages along the Teluk Bahang coast to die by the thousands daily.

The Star revealed in May that the seawater had over 1,000% more nickel than normal while dissolved oxygen levels fell to almost nil.

“Within three months, six fish farmers in Teluk Bahang lost RM700,000.

“Fishermen from elsewhere might face collateral losses as many people did not dare to eat seafood during that period,” she said.

Cemacs marine biologist Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin said although the si­tuation at the coast had improved, it was not out of danger yet.

“We do not know why the pollution happened in the first place and we do not know the source and reason behind it.

“If we do not solve this, the pollution will happen again,” he said.

Prof Tan and Prof Zulfigar earlier joined several other academicians and students from the Hong Kong University, Northeastern University of Boston and USM to plant permanent data loggers along the Teluk Bahang coast to record information.

Northeastern University marine scientist Prof Mark Patterson said the data loggers were meant to capture the temperatures of the intertidal zone.

“We will take the readings over the years and compare them.

“The intertidal zone is a very good place to see global climate change,” said Prof Patterson.

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