From: Associated Press
Published September 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Coastal Villagers Told Not to Eat Shellfish After Toxic Algae Scare in Southern

COCHIN, India — An outbreak of a destructive algae that killed thousands of fish in the southern India state of Kerala is receding, but people have been told to avoid eating some shellfish as a precaution.


The waters off some parts of Kerala are crimson because of the outbreak — known as red tide — which occurs naturally when Karenia brevis algae blooms in higher than normal numbers.


The algae affects the central nervous system of fish and seafood and can be toxic to humans.


People have been advised not to eat mussels, clams and oysters "as a precaution to avoid any possibility of poisoning," said Dominic Presentation, the state's fisheries minister.


Meanwhile, a state-run fisheries research institute was investigating the cause of the red bloom and its possible effects on people.


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At least 200 people were treated in hospitals in Kerala last weekend after they fell ill because of the overpowering stench from the sea.


The worst hit was Valiyathura village, where thousands of dead fish washed ashore, producing an odor that sent at least 90 children to hospitals to be treated for nausea.


Presentation said then that the stench could have been caused by "the increased volumes of fertilizer, sewage and other biological waste pumped into the sea." Such pollutants are known to cause algae to bloom.


Many parts of India, including large cities, do not have modern sewage disposal or treatment plants and solid wastes are often dumped in the sea.


Valiyathura is 210 kilometers (130 miles) south of Cochin, Kerala's commercial hub.

Associated Press


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