Does the Yucatán Red Tide Mean Seafood Isn’t Safe to Eat?

Large amounts of marine life have washed ashore in Yucatán due to a red tide that is currently affecting several coastal communities. Photo: courtesy

Red tides were detected along the Yucatán coasts last weekend in Telchac, Chicxulub and San Crisanto.

As a result, dead fish and other sea life have washed ashore in large numbers, local media report. Heartbreaking photos and videos have been widely shared on social media.

The impacts on human health have become a concern. The state government of Yucatán has advised against the sale and consumption of fish caught in these areas.

The natural phenomenon causes seawater stains to take on a red hue which is potentially dangerous to humans and ocean life.

Red tides are different from “normal” algal blooms because they break down faster and consume large amounts of oxygen, leading to mass fish kills.

Although fish caught in areas where red tides are present are not necessarily inedible, cases of people becoming ill from eating “infected” seafood are not uncommon.

At this time, seafood can still be safely sold and consumed in Yucatán, as long as it comes from outside the affected areas.

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But due to a slowdown in supply and the fact that Yucatán is still well into tourist season, fishing industry analysts expect seafood prices to rise significantly.

Fishermen in the affected areas are understandably upset by the situation but have resigned themselves and are doing their best to cope by moving to other areas.

“It’s unfortunate, but with rising temperatures at sea level, it’s likely that this phenomenon will become more and more common in the years and decades to come,” says Andrés Galván Torres, CONAGUA’s chief executive on the Yucatan Peninsula.

A red tide hadn’t been spotted in Yucatán since 2015 until about a month ago, when the dreaded algal bloom showed up seven miles off the coast of Ría Lagartos.

It is believed that the increasing frequency of red tides is caused by the increase in ocean temperature caused by climate change.

Rising temperatures and climate change are also believed to be linked to record levels of seaweed along the Quintana Roo coast.

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