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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

`Red tide' phenomenon on the decline

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 19. The intensity of the algal bloom has lessened in the past two days and the phenomenon was likely to subside in the next few days, scientists who visited the areas where the `red tide' was reported, have said.

The `red tide bloom' or the proliferation of a species of marine plankton in the waters along the Shanghumugham and Valiathura coast had resulted in the largescale death of fish in the past two days. The overpowering stench along the coast had resulted in several schoolchildren and local residents being hospitalised with symptoms of breathlessness, giddiness and nausea.

"The concentration of the organism belonging to Cochlodeneum species has shown a decreasing trend. Its intensity in Vizhinjam and Valiathura areas have certainly gone down and it was almost nil in the Kovalam coast. The coast near Puthiyathura has shown some increase in concentration," C. K. Padmakumar, of Kerala University's Aquatic Biology Department, who has been doing field studies, said on Sunday.

People recovering

While there are unconfirmed reports of more people taken ill at Puthiyathura, at present, 35 people are convalescing in the Prevention of Epidemics and Infectious Diseases (PEID) Cell at the Medical College Hospital, while another three are in the General hospital. Their condition was reported to be normal.

The algal bloom leads to the depletion of oxygen in water, leading to the mass killing of the fish. While the particular species, Cochlodeneum polykrikoides is known to be non-toxic, its effect on fish species was yet to be established, scientists said. Histology studies of the gill tissue and major organs of fish would have to be conducted to clearly establish whether the algae could have any toxic effect on the fish, they pointed out.

New phenomenon

According to Mr. Padmakumar, algal bloom due to this particular species had not been reported in the Kerala coast before and the reason for its sudden appearance has to be investigated. He pointed out that deforestation, which results in leaching of minerals from land, could create a nutrient rich environment in the water for algae to bloom. Blooming of harmful algae could be triggered by what is known as `ship ballast water contamination', he added.

KSMTF assurance

Meanwhile, the Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) has assured people that algal bloom was a normal phenomenon and that this had no harmful effect on the fish. Seeking to assuage public fears over whether the consumption of fish could be potentially dangerous, fish workers led by the federation gathered in front of the Secretariat on Sunday, cooked fish and tapioca and ate it. They also distributed it to passers-by to demonstrate that it was safe to consume fish.

The fish workers resorted to this novel way of demonstration after the sale of fish was adversely affected in the market following the public scare that fish could be toxic. The demonstration was inaugurated by the Federation president, T. Peter.

The Matsyathozhilali Congress (I) said in a statement here that the `red tide' had resulted in an adverse propaganda, badly affecting life in the coast. The sale of fish had gone down steeply and the Government should distribute free ration to fish workers to tide over the situation, it said.

See also page 4

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