DOHA: High sea temperatures off the coast of Qatar threaten precious coral reef and have caused mass deaths among some 20 types of fish, Doha-based marine researchers said on Monday.
A study carried out by experts from Qatar University and the environment ministry last week has revealed that water temperatures during the fierce Gulf summer have passed 6 degrees celsius (97 farenheit).
Researchers said there is a cause for concern to marine life once sea temperatures pass 34 degrees.
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Although the phenomenon can occur once every two or three years at the height of the summer, researchers told AFP they are concerned about the potential long-term impact on the coral reef in waters surrounding Qatar.
"I am really worried about the coral reef," said Qatar University marine biology Professor Dr Ibrahim Al-Maslamani.
"The coral reef may be affected by the temperature, we don't know yet. Thirty-six degrees, this is really too much. It's really sensitive to high temperatures."
He added: "If the system shuts down it will really be a disaster."
There are several areas of coral reef located along the Qatari coastline, including Halul Island, which is northeast of the capital Doha.
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As well as the heat's potential impact on the reef, fish have also been affected, said Maslamani.
He estimates that fish among "more than 18" different species have been killed by the high temperatures and a low level of dissolved oxygen in sea waters.
Among the species impacted in the past week are Safi, an edible local type of rabbitfish, and Jesh, also known as the Gold Spotted Trevally.
The research carried out last week included studying samples of dead fish as well as monitoring the physical characteristics of sea water at a depth of up to 29 metres (95 feet).
The study also found that sea bed temperatures reached up to 35.9 degrees Celsius in the past week.
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