Why is the water along Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast… green?!

pangkor laut

Why is the water along Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast… green?!

Here’s to debunking a common misconception

When someone mentions the Straits of Malacca, the first thing that comes to most minds is usually… “euw, green water… must be the pollution”.

We can’t help but to imagine that the ocean should feature azure blue waters just as islands should be caressed by fine white sandy beaches given we’ve been primed by commercials and the mainstream media to make such an assumption.

 

So what’s up with the green water?

Two words: Phytoplankton and currents. Let’s start with the former…

phytoplankton-1000x391-web

Image source: oceanservice.noaa.gov

Phytoplankton (a.k.a. microalgae) is similar to terrestrial plants in that they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight in order to survive. They are the foundation of the aquatic food web and form an essential part of the ocean’s ecosystem and are considered as food and nutrients to a wide range of marine life such as whales, shrimps, and a variety of fishes. This is essentially where the green emerald hue comes from. Of course, we’ve heard of harmful algae blooms (HABs) or commonly known as “Red Tides” stemming from phytoplankton, but this largely depend on various factors such as plankton type, water temperature, salinity, density, wind, and type of animals consuming them. Thankfully occurrences of HABs are low in this region (phew!).

Now the curious reader may be asking… “If it’s green? Why isn’t the ocean universally green?” Well, Mother Nature works in mysterious ways, but we can safely hypothesise that it’s a result of the hydrological cycles coupled with the earth’s diversity of environment and ecosystem. Or… we could further simplify it with currents.

malaysia seas

Unlike the South China Sea, Sulu or Celebes Sea surrounding various parts of Malaysia (which spans over a large area), the Straits of Malacca is closely sandwiched between Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra (Indonesia) and thus current movements and oceanic upwelling in comparison are not as pronounced. Less oceanic movements essentially means that the phytoplankton don’t get “moved around” that much.

 

But, wouldn’t green water mean poor visibility?

Not entirely true… how would you then explain the varied visibility along the South China Sea? Aha! Stuck in a pickle? =) Of course we cannot deny the fact that the Straits of Malacca is a very active shipping route (which can affect visibility), but… there are hidden gems if you are willing to explore and give this region a chance.

 

Food for thought

So when you think about it, more phytoplankton means more nutrients, and more nutrients means… more marine life! Yay! Piqued your interest? Talk to us today to planning your next dive adventure within the Straits of Malacca.

 

 

Do let us know if this article has been helpful by contacting us or leaving a comment below. Till then, happy bubbles!

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