Death of wild fish signals danger to marine ecology

BALIK PULAU: If thousands of farmed fish dying in Teluk Bahang was not bad enough, there are signs that the entire marine ecology along the coastline has suffered massive damage.

Tens of thousands of wild fish washed up dead two days after strong winds flayed the sea and over 50, 000 fish trapped in aquaculture cages here floated belly up.

The wild fish washed ashore included juvenile croakers of just 5cm long, middling catfish and various other palm-sized bottom feeders.

A security guard of the Centre for Coastal and Marine Studies (Cemacs), Abdul Sukor Che Amat, went to work on Sunday morning, which was Hari Raya Haji, and was stunned by the sight of the dead fish almost carpeting the 350m beach at the Cemacs cove.

Shukor walked along the beach and took a video of the decomposing litter. The video is now circulating on social media.

Penang Nature Tourist Guides Association chairman Fauzi Mohd Yacob said more dead fish was spotted washed ashore until Tuesday on Monkey Beach too.

“There were more dead fish along the Teluk Bahang beach near the entrance to Penang National Park.

“I have been guiding here for seven years, and have never seen fish deaths like this, ” he said.

Needless destruction: A screencapture from a video showing thousands of dead fishes on the Teluk Bahang shore near the Centre of Marine and Coastal Studies during low tide.Needless destruction: A screencapture from a video showing thousands of dead fishes on the Teluk Bahang shore near the Centre of Marine and Coastal Studies during low tide.

Cemacs director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said the damage to the marine ecology in Teluk Bahang was “unimaginable”.

“When the tail winds of Typhoon Lekima hit the northern coast of Penang island, the waves were incredible, and with the cross currents off Mukah Head in Teluk Bahang, there was enough force to stir up the sediment on the sea floor.

“At low tide, the sea around us stank of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, ” she said.

Cemacs, which is under Universiti Sains Malaysia, teamed up with Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Ocean and Earth Studies (IOES) to measure the extent of the pollution.

The IOES harmful algal team arrived on Tuesday and joined the Cemacs team to check on various pollution parameters of the sea off Teluk Bahang.

Prof Tan said even at 4km from the shore, the team found dead wild fish.

She said on Tuesday, four days after Typhoon Lekima struck the coast, the dissolved oxygen content around the fish farms was just 1.88mg/L at a depth of 4m, not enough for marine life to survive.

Even at 3.1km from the shore, the dissolved oxygen level was just 2.03mg/L at a depth of 4m.

She said sediment and sea water samples were now being tested for heavy metal, but initial checks suggested that the fish died from organic pollution at an extreme scale.

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