West Coast Rock lobster contingency plan activated following marine species walkouts
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has activated the West Coast Rock Lobster Contingency Plan and issued a Situation Red Alert, placing all government role-players, in the sector, on standby.
This follows the harmful algal bloom (Red Tide) that has been developing in the West Coast, Western Cape, that has further caused an estimated 500 tons of West Coast Rock Lobster walkout as of 1 March 2022.
In terms of the contingency plan, the department is the lead, supported by the West Coast District Municipality, Cederberg Municipality, South African Police Services, South African National Defence Force, Western Cape Province and the local communities.
Department officials, together with the local municipalities and law enforcement are working together to assist in rescuing live lobsters and with clean-up operations. The Department will also work closely with the local communities in assisting with the beach clean-up and recovery of live west coast rock lobster washed up due to the red tide. All recovered live lobster will be rehabilitated and will be safely returned to sea once the red tide threat has abated.
As it is often the case in summer and late summer, there has been a build-up of large red tides in the greater St. Helena Bay region over the past few weeks. These blooms of phytoplankton presently extend 50-60 kilometres dominating waters in the vicinity of Elands Bay, Lambert’s Bay, and Doring Bay.
These blooms are dominated by a group of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates and their inshore accumulation particularly during periods of calm often leads to their decay and the subsequent development of low oxygen conditions which cause marine mortalities. Such mortalities were observed on the beaches of Elands Bay earlier today. With the prediction of light westerly winds over the next few days, the risk of further mortalities is high. Some of these dinoflagellates are also capable of producing toxins that may accumulate in shellfish and may pose a risk to human health. For this reason, members of the public are warned not to collect and consume any decayed fish and shellfish washed ashore as a result of the red tide as this could pose a serious health hazard.