KUANTAN - Following the Health Ministry's warning about consuming raw water or fish here, locals are adhering to it strictly.
Angler Mohd Nazri Bakar, 35, said the usually packed fishing spots along Sungai Balok were deserted.
"At most, we catch and release," he said, adding that the pollution had caused most of the fish to go elsewhere, making it a fruitless effort to try anyway.
Mohd Nazri said fishing enthusiasts now preferred to travel down to Pekan, a town about 40km away from Kuantan, to fish along the rivers there.
He took The Star team to several spots around Sungai Balok and Sungai Nyor, showing the water in Sungai Balok to be darker brown and muddied than the nearby Sungai Nyor.
Day-long rain on Dec 28 last year was believed to have caused bauxite dust from mining stockpiles to wash into Sungai Balok, resulting in the water at Pantai Batu Hitam turning red.
Tourist Mazlan Ahmad, 43, said he was disappointed by the poor state of Pantai Batu Hitam.
The Selangor native had come for a weekend holiday with his wife and four kids, but refused to let his children swim in the sea after seeing its dirty colour.
"It was much nicer two years ago. I don't think I'll come again next year if it's still this bad," he said.
Universiti Malaysia Pahang students Zubir Aliff Zainoh, 21, and Nor Amir Hazwani, 21, who also visited the beach, said they didn't dare swim.
"But it's nice enough to walk along the beach."
Stall owner Ismail Mat Tamsir, 67, said some people came to the beach after the rainy days specifically to see the "red sea".
"It's sad. I would like somewhere my grandkids could still swim in," he said.
On Thursday, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said residents here need not worry about the quality of treated water but advised people to avoid using raw water sources from any polluted river.
He also advised them to avoid eating fish or any river produce from those certified as polluted by the Department of Environment and to get early treatment if they do not feel well.