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Red Tide Deposits Dead Fish on Bali's Kuta Beach

Scientists Cite 'Die Off' as a Periodic, Cyclical Natural Phenomenon.

(11/24/2007) Beachcombers walking the sands of Bali famous Kuta Beach were greeted last week by the smell of thousands of decaying fish washed up along the shore. The fish, a variety of sardine, have been gathered up by local community members and quickly buried to help reduce the unpleasant stench.

Tempo Interaktif quoted a member of the local shore patrol who also lives near the beach as saying that, although unpleasant in odor, the periodic "die-off" and washing ashore of small fish is seen as a natural phenomenon that often accompanies the change of season along Bali's shores.

The head of the Bali Fisheries Department, Ida Bagus Wisnawa Manuaba, told the press that the fish die-off is a periodic occurrence of nature that happens every 5 years. However, to ensure no other factors are at play samples of the dead fish are undergoing further examination at a government laboratory in Jembrana.

Preliminary theories contend that the fish are the victim of nutrient-rich deep sea currents originating in the Pacific, passing Kalimantan, the Moluccas and Papua before passing Bali's shore. These Pacific currents stimulate an explosive growth of plankton off Bali's southern shore that change the biological balance rendering the waters temporarily uninhabitable to the small fish (Sardinella lemuru) that congregate off the Island's southern coast.

While the decaying fish have, at least temporarily, reduced the number of swimmers enjoying the waters along Bali's Kuta beach, the level of sunbathing appears unaffected. One Dutch tourist, Alfred Boer, told Tempo Interaktif, "this is unpleasant, but not dangerous."