The abnormal cold spell of the past several weeks has had such a devastating impact on the fishery industry in the Penghu island chain that it could take years for the industry to fully recover.
The subtropical Penghu island group, also known as the Pescadores, is located about 50km west of Taiwan proper. The archipelago consists of 90 islands, only 19 of which are inhabited. The area is rich in fishery resources and has been termed a "paradise for scuba divers."
The recent cold weather, with temperatures dipping to below 9oC, has caused massive damage to both the marine ecology in Penghu's coastal waters and the local net cage fish farming industry.
PHOTO: LIU YU-CHING, TAIPEI TIMES
During a beach cleaning campaign led by Penghu County Commissioner Wang Chien-fa (
Members of the Penghu Scuba Diving Association who examined the coastal waters around Makung Island (
Association president Cheng Cheng-kang (
Cheng said he was worried that as the temperature begins to rise, the high nutrient levels in the water could cause algal blooms, which could lead to a red tide, with toxins from the algae contaminating marine life and posing a hazard to human health.
Tsai Wann-sheng (
With the risk for a red tide a real one, Tsai urged Environmental Protection Bureau officials to closely monitor the quality of seawater around Penghu's coasts and to take necessary precautionary measures to prevent algal blooms.
Chen Ying-nan (陳英男), chairman of the Department of Aquaculture at National Penghu University, said the adverse impact on Penghu's marine ecology would be felt for the next couple of years, although the exact magnitude of the catastrophe had yet to be assessed.
"We expect ... the ocean to use the power of nature to repair itself," he said.
Meanwhile, statistics compiled by the Penghu County Government showed that the cold spell had killed more than 1,500 tonnes, or over 80 percent, of the fish yields in the county's net cage fish farms, with losses totaling more than NT$180 million (US$5.75 million). Cobia, a high-value cage culture species, was the most affected.
If shellfish are included, the total damage is estimated to exceed 3,000 tonnes.
Cheng Ming-yuan (
Another NT$167 million would be needed to provide natural disaster relief and low-interest emergency loans to fish farmers in order to help them get back on their feet, he said.
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