Red Tide Cripples Lobster, Oyster Industries

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By Charles Tjatindi

SWAKOPMUND

The country’s lobster and oyster industries are recovering from recent losses in harvests resulting mainly from the presence of a ‘red tide’ in Namibian waters where these species breed.

Stakeholders in both industries have been working round the clock to devise mechanisms that will restore their respective industries, a venture that could take years considering the losses incurred.

A few weeks ago, low oxygen levels in the oceans caused by decaying algae resulted in tonnes of rock lobsters, oysters and other smaller fish and marine life becoming beached and stranded. Many people hoping to cash in on the situation flocked to the Swakopmund beach where they filled buckets and other large containers to the brim with the stranded marine life.

Recently, a second red tide once again resulted in the spilling of rock lobsters, crayfish and other smaller fish onto the beach at Swakopmund. This came merely a few days after the first exodus.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources officials at the coast had to intervene to save the stranded marine life from hordes of people who had descended on them. People could be spotted at street corners around the coastal town of Swakopmund, and to a certain extent Walvis Bay, where they were selling the ‘harvested’ lobsters and fish to unsuspecting tourists, raising health concerns.

The ministry reported earlier that they had managed to save close to 12 tonnes of crayfish from human greed, although marine experts believe the dent caused by the red tide to the lobster population could take years to recover.

Weeks of persistent algae bloom that is responsible for the feared red tide have also placed the country’s oyster industry in dire straits, as it suffered losses of more than 75 percent in oyster production. Walvis Bay’s five oyster producers are battling the odds with an estimation that as many as 10 million oysters had died in the past weeks due to the red tide conditions.

In a move to resolve the current crises and to devise new methods of dealing with the persistent crisis, embattled oyster farmers and other stakeholders will meet the line ministry this morning. Many in the industry are, however, not pinning much hope on the scheduled meeting.

During a red tide, there is an absence of a southwesterly wind to blow decaying algae out of the bay. The decaying algae results in oxygen deprived water and the release of hydrogen sulphite. Oysters cannot be grown favourably in oxygen poor water and in water that has a high concentration of hydrogen sulphite.

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