Warning: Don't eat West Coast shellfish
Cape Town - The public has been warned not to collect and consume shellfish off the West Coast as they may contract a form of paralytic poisoning, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department said on Thursday.
Spokesperson Lionel Adendorf said a red tide bloom north of Cape Columbine contained large amounts of the highly toxic organism called Alexandrium catenell.
Mussels, oysters, clams, bait and any other filter-feeding shellfish were at risk, although rock lobster was safe.
Symptoms of poisoning include tingling and numbness of the mouth, lips and fingers, difficulty in breathing, general muscular weakness and lack of co-ordination. In severe cases it could cause paralysis.
Adendorf said the duration of the toxic tide could not be determined. Affected shellfish would remain toxic for days or weeks.
The tide is two nautical miles offshore and about 50km long.
"We would like to reiterate that no mortalities of marine life have been recorded and that there is no immediate risk of a washout," Adendorf said.
Scientists would monitor the situation.