Malaysia: Heat wave damaging ocean corals, drying up freshwater lakes

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 15 Mar 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The El Nino heatwave is causing corals at sea to be bleached and damaging them, while freshwater lakes are drying up.

The high temperatures are threatening marine life to the extent that fishermen and farmers rearing seafood produce in ponds, lakes and rivers are seeing a noticeable drop in their catch.

In short, there will be scarcity of seafood for marine life as well as humans.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Nor Aieni Mokhtar said the bleaching of the fragile coral reefs, which are usually based up to six metres in depth, would result in their decay.

“This in turn will increase the acidity of the sea water and damage other marine food like algae and plankton.

“Prolonged high temperatures will eventually destroy other marine life and its habitat,” she said.

Nor Aieni said, when marine life is destroyed, it would have a chain effect for the fisheries and aquaculture research and development, while related commercial industries would also suffer.

“Marine research institutions like us will be inhibited in obtaining enzyme extracts to carry out studies on anti-microbiotic properties that are vital for discovering new drugs and preserving marine life,” she said at the ‘International Conference on Natural Products 2016’ at Permai Hotel, recently.

The conference was organised by UMT’s Institute of Marine Biotechnology and the Malaysian Natural Product Society. Nor Aieni said El Nino had a greater impact on salty seas as compared with freshwater owing to the rich minerals, flora and fauna readily available in the ocean.

She said while nature would eventually bring about a balance by naturally acclimatising to the environment, it would take a long time for marine life to be rehabilitated. On another note, Noor Aieni said that UMT, in collaboration with other varsities, was able to collate over 1,000 databases related to marine biotechnology which helped to carry out research and development of extracts for new drugs and medicines to treat diseases.

“But I hope researchers will consider preserving the marine habitat by not damaging corals, sponges and other marine life.

“At the same time, I urge commercial entities not to cash in on marine life by depleting its supply once a clinical drug becomes popular,” she said.

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