Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 16:19 UK

Algae 'causes lower crab catches'

An algae which has killed thousands of fish off the coast of Cornwall has now begun to affect crab catches in Looe, according to the town's harbour master.

The Red Tide algal bloom produces toxins lethal to fish and shellfish and also depletes oxygen levels which makes it difficult for marine life to breath.

It was blamed for the death of fish in St Austell Bay and temporarily led to four shellfishing sites being shut.

Harbour master Geoff Penhaligon said the crabs vanished when the algae came.

Catches reduced

"When it came up the river it was black - we had two days when the river was totally black," he said.

"It's killed a lot of lug worm up the river, a lot of cockles and winkles have died off and the crabs have disappeared.

"For two days nobody caught a crab and for the last two days I've looked in the buckets here and there's only been the odd one or two - not the great numbers we usually have."

According to marine experts, the toxin from the algae can become concentrated in the flesh of shellfish grown in contaminated waters.

However, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain said last week that it did not believe the local industry would be too badly affected because the main shellfishing season did not start until the autumn.

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