Costa Rica officials ban shellfish consumption, blame red tide

November 8, 2012

Authorities of the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) and Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca) mandated all residents to avoid eating shellfish caught in Costa Rican waters, including oysters and mussels, after confirming the presence of red tide (harmful algal blooms) in the Pacific waters of the Gulf of Nicoya.

This phenomenon may cause poisoning in humans and in some cases even death from cardiorespiratory arrest.

Experts from both agencies collected water samples in several sectors that were analyzed by the Laboratory of Marine Phytoplankton at National University and confirmed high presence of algae species that cause the red tide.

The Inter-Agency Committee for the Prevention and Control of Red Tide in Costa Rica (formed by members of Incopesca, MAG, the Health Ministry, the Social Security System, National University and University of Costa Rica), reported that the “ban on shellfish remains active, so consumption and commercialization is absolutely prohibited.”

Those who consume contaminated shellfish may present symptoms such as tingling around the mouth, arms and fingers, difficulty breathing, swallowing and speaking, trouble walking or a floating sensation. “Anyone with any of these symptoms should go immediately to the nearest hospital,” the committee said in a statement.

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