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More checks in the works for local seafood

SEAFOOD products sold in local wholesale markets are expected to undergo more frequent and efficient tests on toxins caused by red tide, scientific authorities in Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang Province said yesterday.

A project targeting major red tide hazards in the Yangtze River Delta region will start this year with a 60 million yuan (US$8.79 million) investment from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the two regional governments.

Once a domestically made instant reagent on red tide toxins is introduced, authorities plan to do more tests. Only products that pass the tests can be sold in the market, local experts in charge of the project said yesterday.

"Shanghai shares the same waters with neighboring provinces in the Yangtze River Delta and many seafood products sold in the city are from these provinces, especially Zhejiang's Zhoushan City," said Wang Jinhui from the East China Sea Environmental Monitoring Center in Shanghai. "Cooperation and information sharing on red tides will improve our research, which can help prevent harmful effects to humans and the environment."

Red tide, or algal bloom, occurs when algae accumulates rapidly in a body of water. It can kill fish, pollute the sea and impact the marine ecosystem. About 20 percent of red tides contain toxins that can accumulate in marine life, posing a threat to humans when such seafood is eaten.

Too expensive

The project will set up a model area at the mouth of the Yangtze River at the boundary of Shanghai and Zhejiang for research. It will also promote development of a domestic reagent for red tide toxin and improve monitoring of red tides through satellites and other high-tech devices.

Experts said checks have started on toxins in seafood products in Zhoushan and Shanghai. "We only can do spot checks twice a month and it takes two days to get back test results," Wang said. "One instant reagent test imported from the West costs more than 50 yuan, which is too expensive for large-scale testing."

Wang said the domestic reagent worked in the laboratory and that it will eventually reach the market.


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