Steer clear of algae bloom off Oman coast
January 1, 2018 | 10:26 PM
by Times News Service

Muscat: Experts have warned residents to avoid the algae blooming off the coast of Oman.

The algae, in the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea surrounding the Sultanate, blooms twice a year for some three months.

It gives off a fluorescent green colour to the sea water and causes a stink.

It is a phyto-plankton and is a combination of a multiple species of algae People who come in contact with the algae while swimming or diving may develop skin allergies, eye irritations or severe coughing.

Khaled Al Hashmi, an oceanographer at the Sultan Qaboos University’s (SQU)

Department of Marine Science and Fisheries, said this particular algae bloom is not toxic, but it would be better to avoid it.

“Although this species does not produce a toxin, it has been found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters.

It is possible that the high ammonia content irritates fish, which generally avoid the bloom.

“So swimmers should avoid the bloom, as high levels of ammonia are released,” Al Hashmi cautioned.

Even if scuba divers venture into the waters, they will find that the algae reduces visibility, he added.

The Head of Department of internal medicine at the Badr Al Samaa Hospital, Dr Bashir, said that asthmatic people were at risk of developing an allergic reaction.

“Asthmatic people living near the coastline should take care to close their windows, as the algae bloom nearby can cause an allergic reaction in them,” he stressed.

The doctor warned that swimmers and people playing near the beach should avoid the algae-ridden waters altogether.

“If the algae enters your lungs, it could cause allergic bronchitis.”

People engaged in desalination of seawater will face difficulties.

“They should make sure that the seawater they use doesn’t have algae in it, otherwise it’ll affect the process,” noted oceanographer Khaled Al Hashmi.

Hussain Al Masrouri, assistant professor at the department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries,

SQU, said marine life would be marginally affected by the algae bloom..

However, if the bloom lingers and grows, the organisms will use up excessive oxygen.

“Shellfish can be affected, as they are filter feeders, meaning they consume suspended matter, including the algae,” he added.

A study identified 24 potentially harmful algal species in the Sea of Oman.

Research on this was conducted from April 2006 to April 2011.

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