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Red Tide outbreak on Garden Route | IOL
Red Tide outbreak on Garden Route
15 December 2015 at 20:22pm
By:Jabulile S. Ngwenya
Cape Town - An outbreak of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), also known as Red Tide, has been confirmed along the Garden Route coastal area, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced on Tuesday.
DEA spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said some of the HAB-affected areas along the coastal route included popular tourist spots Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and Wilderness.
He said the algal bloom, which is a natural phenomena in coastal waters caused by microscopic organisms, was first seen on December 7. Nqayi said the HAB concentration in those areas had since remained constant.
HAB, which could be toxic in nature, has “a reddish brown colour of the water seen mostly on the sea surface”.
Nqayi noted that “there are 29 algal species that are known worldwide for forming HABs that are harmful because they contain toxins, which are poisonous to humans”.
Nqayi said: “The toxicity of the HAB may lead to a large number of fish, like crayfish, shellfish, linefish species and other marine organisms dying. This may also be as a result of low oxygen levels in the sea water from the death of phytoplankton.”
He said while there had been no wash ups of marine life to date, the department was monitoring the situation.
He urged tourists and people living in these areas to refrain from fishing, bathing or swimming in HAB-affected areas and to stay away from these areas. He warned people not to eat any fish or marine organisms from the area because “the bloom could be toxic and may lead to death by paralytic shellfish poisoning”.
He noted that there were three microscopic organisms, “Dinoflagellates, Diatoms and Ciliates which can be lifted to the surface during upwelling”. Of these, dinoflagellates, which were known to cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, was “a toxin that can attack the nerve functioning in humans”.
He said the DEA had been in touch with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as “the bays are also visibly affected and some of these are areas where communities swim and fish”.
The department has also engaged in talks with Cape Nature, South African National Parks, South African Environmental Observation Network (SAON), Universities (NMMU) and other relevant and interested parties including the communities about the outbreak.
He said the outbreak could last for several weeks and “unfortunately nothing can be done about it as it is part of a natural process, however the expectation is that nature will take its course and the HAB will subside with time”.