x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Authorities urge people not to eat fish after algae outbreak

An outbreak of Red Tide toxic algae off the coast of Diba Husn in Fujairah is killing thousands of fish and fouling the shores.

FUJAIRAH // An outbreak of Red Tide toxic algae off the coast of Diba Husn in Fujairah is killing thousands of fish and fouling the shores. Officials said the outbreak, which started on Tuesday, was far worse than one in 2005 when Red Tide first appeared off Diba Husn. Mohammed Ahmad al Mutwawa, the head of Diba Husn Municipality, said more than 7,000 dead fish were found on beaches on Tuesday and the number had risen above 9,000 by midday on Wednesday.

The municipality has urged people not to eat fish killed by the algae. "We have also instructed all fishermen not to take dead fish from the sea as their daily catches and have sent intelligence officials out to sea to track fishermen who might violate these rules," Mr Mutwawa said. Authorities were alerted by large numbers of dead fish floating in the sea, which had turned reddish. Workers sent to collect the dead fish and dispose them were still working at midday on Wednesday.

Khalid Abdullah, who is heading the municipality's clean-up efforts, said the men were working round the clock and hoped to finish in a few days. Red Tide is caused by algal blooms that kill fish by depleting the oxygen in the water or by releasing toxins. The bloom can be caused by high surface temperatures, low salinity and high nutrient content in the water. Mr Mutwawa said the outbreak was due to natural causes, particularly the rise in the sea temperature. He downplayed the possibility of human involvement or pollution as a cause.

A municipal health expert said Red Tide affected the central nervous system of fish and killed them instantly. "For humans, eating fish contaminated with the toxin can cause numbness, dizziness, nausea, fever and muscle paralysis. The most serious cases can result in respiratory arrest and death," he said. Health risks to humans who swim in affected waters include breathing irritation, scratchy throat and itchy, red eyes, the expert added. People with asthma or other health problems could be sensitive to toxins released by the algae.

Yasin Abdul Wahab, a Diba Husn fisherman, said he caught a small number of fish on Tuesday morning but saw no Red Tide. "In my case I chose to fish in an area where there was no Red Tide and when it began spreading and reached my area I immediately stopped," he said. Mr Wahab said he was worried that no one would buy his catch because everyone was now afraid of eating fish. @email:ykakande@thenational.ae