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Marine Institute
algal bloom

"Massive cloud of suffocation" moving off west coast

60 per cent of oysters dead in Donegal, one farmer tells, as algal bloom moves into its fourth week.

FISH AND OYSTER farms along the north-west coast are reporting massive losses, as a toxic algal bloom or “red tide” that formed in May shows no sign of receding.

Experts said that the bloom, which is caused by a “species of phytoplankton” was naturally occurring, but that it would kill anything that could not swim away from it by sucking the oxygen out of the water.

“It is like a massive cloud of suffocation,” Padraic Fogarty, Chairman of the Irish Wildlife Trust told

Unless you can swim away from it it will kill you. The tide is washing up dead marine creatures, as marine invertebrates like star fish and crabs can’t get away.

According to the Galway based Marine Institute, it was difficult to say how long the bloom would last. “It may subside quickly to be replaced by the more typical mixed summer algal community, or it may continue over the next month or so as was the case in 2005″ it said in a statement on its website.

However, shellfish farmers said that this year’s bloom was far more devastating than the 2005 one.

“This is very bad for us,” Damian Reid of Donegal Oysters Ltd told The

In 2005 up to 40 per cent of the oysters died but now we have a 60 per cent mortality rate on our stocks and this is probably going to rise. There are always deaths in oyster farming, but i’ve never seen anything on this scale.

The algal bloom showed no signs of receding, said Reid, who farms between 500 and 600 tonnes of Oysters a year in Donegal Bay.

Most of our oysters go to France. But we’ve had to ring them and say you will be lucky if you have 30 or 40 per cent of what we promised unless you’re interested in dead shells, because we have no shortage of them.

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