The red tide along the Texas coast has forced commercial and recreational harvesting of some species to be closed. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
Red tide dampens oyster season in Texas
Friday, October 28, 2011, 02:00 (GMT + 9)
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced this week the closing of oyster harvesting in all Texas coastal waters as a prevention measure against an algal bloom of Karenia brevis.
Red tide has been identified along the Texas coast from Brownsville to Galveston, so all Texas coastal waters are now indefinitely closed to the commercial and recreational harvesting of oysters, clams and mussels. Normally, oysters can be harvested from 1 November-30 April.
The algae contain a toxin that can accumulate in the tissue of oysters, clams, mussels and whelks and cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) in humans upon consumption of the shellfish. NSP symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, dilated pupils and tingling sensations in the extremities.
DSHS is thus recommending that no one harvest and eat oysters, clams or mussels from the state’s coastal waters. Oysters can be toxic even while indications of red tide such as discoloured waters, respiratory irritation or dead fish are absent.
The news is adversely affecting local businesses.
The projected staff at Hillman Shrimp and Oyster Co, for example, went from about 260 employees to 11, and those who supply businesses with oysters they gather using independently-owned boats – some 300 people -- will also see themselves out of work, Victoria Advocate reports.
"It will affect everyone in the state who harvests oysters for a living," said Clifford Hillman, president and owner of Hillman Shrimp and Oyster Co. "The last six years have been like the perfect storm for the oyster business - first the hurricanes and flooding, and now the drought."
People are also advised not to harvest and eat whelks from Texas waters, as these species also accumulate toxin from the red tide organism.
At the same time, the warning does not apply to other types of seafood, such as shrimp, finfish, crabs or to commercial seafood products from other states or countries.
DSHS pointed out that the red tide toxin can also become aerosolized and cause coughing and irritation of the throat and eyes, and warned that people with respiratory conditions such as asthma may experience more pronounced symptoms. The respiratory symptoms usually subside when affected people leave the red tide areas.
DSHS will continue to monitor the red tide and will open areas to harvesting when the algal bloom has cleared and it is safe to do so.
Blooms of Karenia brevis are the largest ever found off the Texas coast in 11 years, San Antonio Express-News reports.
By Natalia Real