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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Guatemala bans shellfish harvesting in the Pacific due to red tide

Guatemala temporarily banned the harvesting of mollusks in the Pacific coast from Friday due to a red tide that has caused the death of an adult and three children by consuming contaminated specimens.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food banned the collection of mussels, shells, oysters and clams until the results of the Health laboratory determine that their consumption is safe for human health.

The Central American country declared an alert on May 7 when it detected the presence of “saxitoxins above the appropriate limits” on the coasts of three southern provinces due to red tide, caused by the increase of harmful algae in the water.

Since April 29 to date, 34 cases of poisoning have been reported, of which four have died (one adult and three children). The children died on May 20.

The ban includes the entire Pacific Coast of Guatemala, which includes six departments, one bordering El Salvador and another with Mexico.

Penalties include the payment of some US$1,000 to individuals and US$10,000 to companies that fail to comply, and in the event of a repeat offense, the fine will be increased by 100% and fishing or aquaculture will be suspended for a period of six to twelve months.

In case of a third infraction, the license or permit to operate the vessel or aquaculture company will be definitively cancelled. In case of not being regularized, the authorities will deny any subsequent application submitted by the offender.

Symptoms of intoxication from consuming contaminated bivalves include tingling of the lips, tongue, mouth and face, loss of muscle strength, paralysis, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

Despite the red tide, octopus, squid, lobsters, shrimp, crabs and fish can still be consumed “without any risk of intoxication”.

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