Friday February 15, 2013
State Marine Fisheries Dept holding vigil for fear of Sabah’s red tide
KUCHING: Sarawak Marine Fisheries Department is keeping a close watch on the red tide that’s now affecting Sabah’s waters, and is collecting samples from Kuala Lawas periodically.
Although Sarawak is currently safe from the red tide, the department remains vigilant, and is conducting water sampling around Brunei Bay.
Deputy director (development), Bohari Leng, said at the moment there was no fear of the red tide appearing in Sarawak waters.
“The samples we collected so far were negative but we will continue to check the waters,” he told The Star when contacted yesterday.
He said this following reports of the death of a 23-year-old woman and over 40 people being hospitalised after they ate mussels made toxic by the red tide on Wednesday in Sabah.
The “red tide” refers to the contamination or infestation of marine waters by microscopic algae whose concentration is so dense that they cause the water to look brownish orange or red.
Some species of these algae produce potentially fatal toxins. Should humans consume marine creatures that ate these algae, there could be fatal consequences.
Minor poisoning results in numbness around the mouth, neck and face.
More serious poisoning causes major headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Bohari said the first red tide in Sabah was reported in 1976, after which, it has become a yearly occurrence.
He said the red tide often took place in stagnant waters and Sabah was known to have many lagoons.
Fortunately, he said, Sarawak did not have as many lagoons so the water was constantly flowing.
He explained that the toxin from the red tide tended to accumulate in shellfish (crustaceans) because they are filter feeders and sedentary.
Pelagic fish may also be affected because they feed on plankton, but they swim freely and thus the level of toxin in them may not be as critical as in shellfish.
All shellfish or pelagic fish caught in a red tide zone, even when cooked, are considered poisonous, although as Bohari pointed out, some people believe that pelagic fish should be safer to eat after the gills and stomach were removed.