Red tide came to mind for some Gabriola Islanders when they saw the colour of Descanso Bay in recent days.
A brown algal bloom was originally believed to have been caused by the same organism responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning, but if so, it wasn't detected in monitoring for the toxic bloom that occurs most frequently in the summer months.
"The Gabriola area is open to harvesting of most species of shellfish, including manila and little neck clams, oysters, mussels, geoducks and horse clams," said Elysha Gordon, Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program co-ordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Red tide is responsible for PSP, which can cause paralysis, shortness of breath and even death. The toxin is absorbed by clams and other mollusks,and cannot be removed by cooking.
To monitor for the toxin, the Canadian Food Agency tests samples of mollusks collected
at various West Coast sites, then posts the results at http://bit.ly/U5b8ML.
"On Gabriola, there was a large algal bloom, but it wasn't really the species we're concerned about," Gordon said. "The message I give everybody is to make sure they check the DFO website."
Information posted is always current and accurate, she said.
"Just check daily."