JOHANNESBURG – The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has placed government role players on high alert, after the latest red tide caused a staggering amount of lobster to walk out of the ocean.
Since 7 February, the DFFE reported at least five tonnes of west coast rock lobster walking out, owed to a harmful algal bloom developing in the west coast in the Western Cape.
Red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by a buildup of microscopic algae. Some algal species are toxic to humans and other marine species. Red tides cause oxygen depletion, which affects all marine creatures and can lead to mass mortalities.
“Mass walkouts” of rock lobsters are currently being observed as the creatures try to escape.
READ: West Coast residents warned not to eat fish washed up due to red tide
The DFFE issued a red alert, and has activated a contingency plan involving the department, the West Coast district municipality, Cederberg municipality, police, the South African National Defence Force, the Western Cape province, and local communities in the affected areas.
Live lobster are being rescued and clean-up operations are underway. Any live lobster will be rehabilitated and returned to sea once the red tide threat has subsided.
The DFFE said there had been a build-up of large red tides in the greater St. Helena Bay region over the past few weeks, with algal blooms extending up to 60 kilometres, and invading waters in the vicinity of Elands Bay, Lambert’s Bay, and Doring Bay.
Light westerly winds could further push up mortalities, the department said.
Members of the public are reminded not to collect or consume any dead fish or shellfish washed ashore due to the red tide, as some algal species contain toxins that are poisonous to humans.