Research at Chichester Harbour has discovered two strains of bacteria ‘not recorded before in the UK’.

Vibrio rotiferianus and Vibrio jasicida are thought to be a consequence of rising temperatures in our seas.

Vibrio bacteria is thought be responsible for die-offs in wild and farmed oysters. It can cause gastroenteritis in humans through eating raw or undercooked shellfish and can also cause skin infections if the bacteria enter the body through cuts and abrasions.

Using Met Office data to find areas where sea-surface temperatures were between 13C and 22C, researchers analysed samples from four shellfish farms located in Chichester Harbour, Osea Island, Whitstable Bay and Lyme Bay.

  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus, the most common cause of seafood-borne gastroenteritis worldwide, was found at Chichester Harbour.
  • Vibrio alginolyticus, which causes wound infection and the ear infection otitis, were found at Chichester Harbour, Osea Island and Whitstable Bay.
  • Vibrio rotiferianus was found in four samples gathered from Chichester Harbour
  • Vibrio jasicida was found in eight samples.

‘It is important to note that thorough cooking kills harmful Vibrio bacteria in seafood,’ Dr Sariqa Wagley, of the University of Exeter

‘However, increasing abundance and diversity of Vibrio bacteria creates health risks not only for people eating seafood, but for those using the sea for recreation purposes – either due to swallowing infected seawater or from the bacteria entering exposed wounds or cuts.’

The situation needed to be monitored closely to protect human health, marine biodiversity, and the seafood industry.

Dr Luke Helmer, from Blue Marine Foundation and the University of Portsmouth, added: ‘The impacts of climate change on the marine environment are likely to be widespread.

In the meantime, please be aware; ensure that any fish and shellfish from these waters is cooked thoroughly, and if you haven’t yet, now might be the time to invest in a watermaker.

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