The public has once again been warned to not consume any decaying fish and shellfish that wash ashore on the Cape West Coast because of the red tide.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries reports that although the buildup of large harmful algal bloom (red tides), which initially built up in Elands Bay, continues to spread along the West Coast there have been no new strandings of West Coast Rock Lobster since Saturday, January 16.

The red tide is still spreading to parts of the West Coast of South Africa but more to the south now. Due to the smaller population of rock lobster in the south there’s less likely to be more stranding of rock lobster. However, mortalities of other marine species are possible,” said spokesperson Zolile Nqayi, in a statement.

There have been many mortalities of marine species along the coast and more are possible, according to the department. The Berg River estuary has been singled out as an at-risk area.

About a ton of lobster washed ashore at Elands Bay on the January 16 and members of the community rush to gather some of the contaminated shellfish before police intervened.

Species affected by the red tide include rock lobsters, octopus, white mussels and some fish species, according to the department.

The natural phenomenon occurs in coastal waters and is caused by a dense accumulation of microscopic algae, some of which are harmful because they contain toxins which are poisonous to humans.

Humans can be poisoned either by consuming contaminated seafood or by inhaling toxic aerosols or coming into contact with water bound compounds that cause respiratory and skin irritation.

Other red tides are harmful as they deplete oxygen in water, which affects all marine creatures and may result in mass mortalities of the entire marine communities or mass walkouts of rock lobsters, as they try to escape the anoxic conditions.

“Red Tides occurrences can therefore have major environmental, as well as societal implications, with knock-on effects on coastal economies. Fisheries and Aquaculture industries suffer from the episodic mortalities of stocks caused by Red Tides, while poor water quality and foul smells associated with these occurrences affect coastal tourism,” said the department.

Picture: Facebook/Cederberg Municipality

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