Avoid stranded shells

2015-07-07 06:01
Locals have been warned not to eat mussels washed up along False Bay beaches.

Locals have been warned not to eat mussels washed up along False Bay beaches.

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Thousands of mussels have washed up along the False Bay coast in the last week, but the City of Cape Town cautions residents against eating them as some have already started rotting.

Reports have been received over the past two weeks of mussels, starfish and some fish washing up on a number of beaches, including in Glencairn, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg and the stretch of coastline along Baden Powell Drive.

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has confirmed the mass stranding as an annual occurrence in autumn and winter as a result of stronger groundswells and a change in current strength and direction along the northern shores of False Bay. The department explains that hard, rocky reef is limited along the False Bay coast, so the mussels tend to anchor onto any available hard surface such as shells, plastic and nylon fishing line. As they grow, and more settle alongside their conspecifics (members of the same species), they develop their own reef which can only be broken free by the strongest currents and wave action and washed up on the shore.

Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health, warns: “In spite of this being a natural phenomenon, I would much rather err on the side of caution and advise the public to not collect and consume the marine animals. Some of the mussels have started rotting, so that is a potential risk.

“In addition, given that shellfish are filter feeders, they are known to be the cause of food poisoning incidents – especially under the current circumstances where they have been lying on the shore for some time.”

The department has also reported a red tide along the False Bay coast for much of June, although the extent of the toxicity is not known.

“In my book, these are more than enough reasons to steer clear of eating the shellfish in question,” Mamkeli says.

The City of Cape Town will continue to monitor the situation and engage with the departments of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and environmental affairs

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