The seawater of the Upper Gulf in Chonburi province in Thailand has a jade-green color. The water is thick, slimy, and smells of dead fish – all indications that a plankton bloom is underway.
Fish and whales eat plankton, but the microscopic organisms can also be toxic in large amounts. When a bloom occurs, it starves the ocean of oxygen and kills fish and other animals.
“This is the first that I’ve seen since I was born, which means it (plankton bloom) is very severe this year,” marine scientist Tanuspong Pokavanich said.
Along the coastline of the Upper Gulf are more than 260 mussel farming areas, which have been severely impacted by the bloom.
“See, they (mussels) just fall off when you shake it. There are no live ones left. They’re all dead, including the oysters too. Normally, they would cling (to the rope) here,” 47-year-old local fisherman Suchat Buawat told news agency Reuters as he inspected his shellfish.
While the exact cause behind the green seawater is yet to be determined, scientists are investigating possible connections to climate change.
“Everyone now agrees that the El Niño that occurred somewhere in the distance in the Pacific Ocean now has a chain reaction on Thailand. El Niño causes drought and higher sea temperatures,” Pokavanich said.
Worldwide, marine heatwaves have become a growing concern. “Everything is worsening. If we don’t change the way we manage our natural resources, if we don’t adjust the way we live, dumping polluted water or waste into the river streams. If we don’t change the wastewater management system at our homes. If we don’t start contributing (to conserve the earth), nothing will change,” Pokavanich warned.