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Does Yucatán’s red tide mean seafood isn’t safe to eat?

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Large amounts of sea life have washed ashore in Yucatán due to a red tide which is currently affecting several coastal communities. Photo: Courtesy

Red tides were detected along the coasts of Yucatán this past weekend in Telchac, Chicxulub, and San Crisanto.

As a result, dead fish and other marine life have washed ashore in great volumes, local media report. Heartbreaking photos and videos were shared widely on social media.

Health impacts on humans have become a concern. Yucatán’s state government has advised against the sale and consumption of fish caught in these areas. 

The natural phenomenon causes patches of seawater to take on a red tint which is potentially dangerous to humans and ocean life.

Red tides are different from “normal” algae blooms, as they decompose more rapidly and use up large amounts of oxygen, resulting in massive fish die-offs.

Though fish caught in areas where red tides are present are not necessarily inedible, instances of people becoming sick from eating “infected” seafood are not uncommon.

For the time being, seafood can still be sold and eaten safely in Yucatán, as long as it comes from outside affected areas. 

Earlier: Mexico’s Caribbean coast continues to battle against record levels of seaweed

But as a result of a slowing of supply and the fact that Yucatán is still well within tourist season, fishing industry analysts expect seafood prices to rise considerably. 

Fishermen in the affected areas are understandably upset with the situation but have resigned themselves and are doing their best to cope by moving to other areas. 

“It is unfortunate, but with rising sea level temperatures it is likely that this phenomenon will become more and more common in years and decades to come,” says Andrés Galván Torres, general director of CONAGUA on the Yucatán Peninsula. 

A red tide had not been spotted in Yucatán since 2015 until roughly a month ago when the dreaded algae bloom showed up seven miles off the coast of Ría Lagartos

The increasing frequency of red tides is thought to be caused by increasing ocean temperatures triggered by climate change.

Rising temperatures and climate change are also thought to be connected to record levels of seaweed along the coast of Quintana Roo. 

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