Government Says Kep Water Safe; Tourists Pour Back in

After issuing a public health warning earlier this month for Kep province due to an algal bloom in the coastal water, the government on Friday lifted its precautionary ban on swimming, fishing and eating seafood in the province, according to a statement.

The coastal seawater was swept by a severe algal bloom—a natural phenomena that occurs in the area annually—which raised concerns when swaths of dead marine life began washing ashore.

But after testing water from seven affected areas, the Environment Ministry said in a statement released Friday that it had found no evidence that the bloom could harm humans or sea life.

“The results show that the quality of water at the affected areas is not seen to be poisonous,” it said.

Kep provincial governor Ken Satha said on Sunday that water off the coast was abnormally hot when the bloom first appeared on March 31, causing the water to turn bright green, but the ocean cleared as the weather cooled to a normal 32 degrees.

“At that time, the temperature was very high, which increased the amount of plankton in the shallow waters, causing the lack of oxygen to kill marine life,” Mr. Satha said.

Provincial officials had a plan to deal with the issue in the future, he added.

“Whenever an algal bloom appears, our officials will drive motorboats through it to separate it so there is no reduction in oxygen, and marine life cannot die,” he said.

Mr. Satha added that normally about 5,000 tourists visit Kep per week, but that figure dropped below 2,000 last week.

Heng Sothearith, manager of the Holy Crab restaurant located in Kep’s Crab Market, said that when he first heard about the potentially toxic bloom, he decided to close for a week, but had opened again on Saturday.

However, he said business was not yet back to normal.

“Normally we have about 20 to 25 people at a time, but today we only had six customers,” he said.

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