CHON BURI: An unusually dense plankton bloom off the eastern coast of the country is creating an aquatic “dead zone”, threatening the livelihood of local fishermen who farm mussels in the waters.
Marine scientists say some areas in the Gulf of Thailand have more than 10 times the normal amount of plankton, turning the water a bright green and killing off marine life.
“This is the first that I’ve seen it so bad,” said marine scientist Tanuspong Pokavanich. “It is very severe.”
Plankton blooms happen one or two times a year and typically last two to three days, experts say. They can produce toxins that harm the environment, or they can kill off marine life by depleting the oxygen in the water and blocking sunlight.
The coast of Chon Buri is famous for mussel farms, and more than 80% of the almost 300 plots in the area has been affected, said Satitchat Thimkrajong, president of the Chon Buri Fisheries Association.
Fisherman Suchat Buwat’s plot was one of those affected. He said the bloom had caused him losses of more than 500,000 baht, with his peers also racking up “unfathomable” losses.
Masses of dead fish were found belly-up along a 1,500-metre stretch of shoreline on the popular Bang Saen and Wonnapha beaches in Chon Buri earlier this month because of the plankton bloom.
Officials said at the time that the seawater remains safe for recreational activities and surrounding communities.
However, the water’s oxygen quantity was low and this was caused by the plankton bloom, they said.
While the cause of the intense plankton bloom remains unclear, scientists believe pollution and the intense heat caused by climate change are to blame.
“El Niño causes drought and higher sea temperatures,” said Tanuspong. “Everything will get worse if we don’t adjust how we manage resources, water waste and how we live.”
Earlier this year, a plankton bloom caused thousands of dead fish to wash up along a stretch of beach in Chumphon province, with experts blaming climate change for stimulating the natural phenomenon.
Worldwide, marine heatwaves have become a growing concern this year, with thousands of dead fish washing up on beaches in Texas and experts warning of algal blooms along the British coast as a result of rising sea temperatures.
A marine scientist from Kasetsart University collects a sample of green sea water caused by a plankton bloom off Chon Buri on Sept 14. (Photo: Reuters)