No ‘Red Tide’ alert in Sarawak

The Borneo Post, 17 Jan 2013

KUCHING: Waters in Sarawak is free from the ‘Red Tide’ menace thus far as there had been no reports about consumers being affected, unlike in Sabah.

State Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) deputy director Bohari Leng said the only place that is of concern in the state is Lawas because it is nearer to Sabah and sharing the Brunei Bay.

As such, the Marine Fisheries Department is monitoring the situation closely by analysing water samples, shellfish and pelagic fish collected in Lawas.

“The results from these samples are expected to be out this Friday. Since early this month MFD started monitoring in Lawas,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

“We are in close contact with the Department of Fisheries Sabah with respects to assisting in toxin analysis and getting updates on the latest status of Red Tide in Sabah.”

Bohari said the Red Tide menace in Sabah started last month and thus far two deaths had been reported.

He added that the phenomenon was site specific and the first incident in Sabah was reported in 1976, and since then it had been occurring annually.

Until today, the fisheries’ industries and consumers in Sarawak had never been seriously affected by Red Tide.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia’s state director Abdul Razak Ahmad, who was also present, said the import of shellfish from Sabah had been reduced as importers were concern about the people’s safety.

For instance, he said, only 1.3 tonnes of shellfish were brought in from Sabah last month, compared to four tonnes in October and three tonnes in November.

“Those shellfish that were brought in were not from affected areas because not all waters in Sabah are affected by the Red Tide menace,” he said, adding there had yet been any ban on certain seafood in the state.

He added that most imported shellfish were from Peninsular Malaysia. As for pelagic fishes, the state imported them from Sabah, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia.

He opined that pelagic fishes were safe for consumption because they swim freely and the level of toxin accumulated in them was not as critical as in shellfish although they might also be affected because they were plankton feeders.

Nevertheless, consumers were advised to remove internal organs and clean the fish thoroughly before consumption.

Bohari said the toxic Red Tide currently occurs in Sabah was caused by toxic plankton ‘Pyrodinium bahamense var. Compressum’. This plankton is causing Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

Five to 30 minutes from consumption, there is a slight tingling progressing to numbness which spreads to face and neck in moderate cases. In severe cases, these symptoms spread to extremities with in-coordination and respiratory difficulties.

There are disturbances in severe cases, evidenced by difficulty in swallowing, sense of throat constrictions, speech incoherence, or complete loss of speech as well as brain stem dysfunction.

Within two to 12 hours, in very severe cases, there is complete paralysis and death from respiratory failure in the absence of ventilatory support.

If ventilation is provided, after 12 hours, regardless of severity, victim starts to recover gradually and is without any residual symptoms within a few days.