Authorities have put a ban on eating fish from the Gippsland Lakes after a toxic algae outbreak.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment says the blue-green algae species, Nodularia spumigena produces a toxin which can adversely affect liver function, meaning fish caught in the lakes are not safe for human consumption.
Scientific testing has found levels of toxins, which can be taken up by fish, prawns, mussels and crabs, are above safe levels.
The ban will stop supplies of Black Bream and Taylor from the Lakes to the Melbourne Markets and will also affect tourism businesses at their busiest time of year.
Arthur Allen from the East Gippsland Estuarine Fishermen's Association says it's a disaster for the local fishing industry. 'There is a couple of newer entrants that have got young families and big debts that go with the purchase of licences and things. I think that they will be in real trouble. If you've got no cash flow anyone in business will tell you that if cash flow dries up you're in immediate trouble.'
The Department of Health says seafood caught in the Gippsland Lakes system is considered unsafe for human consumption, but recreational anglers can still enjoy catch and release fishing, but are advised not to eat their catch. PrimeSafe, the statutory authority that regulates the safety of meat, poultry and seafood in Victoria, is coordinating arrangements with licensed commercial fishers to ensure that fish from the Lakes are not offered for sale to consumers.
The large majority of fish landed by commercial fishers at Lakes Entrance are caught out at sea in areas unaffected by this algal bloom. This seafood is safe to eat and will continue to be available for sale to consumers through the usual outlets.
The DSE says toxin levels will continue to be monitored and as soon as testing shows that levels that are safe for human consumption the public will be informed.
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