KOTA KINABALU - Despite numerous warnings against the dreaded red tide off Sabah's west coast, there are still people selling and consuming clams and other sea products from the area.
Two people have reportedly died due to poisoning caused by toxic clams while there have also been cases of mild poisoning in several areas.
Many sellers are claiming their clams come from the state's safer east coast and, as such, are not infected by the harmful algal blooms.
These blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae - ocean plants that live in the sea - grow out of control producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.
The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.
Some people here are said to have kept their clams in clean water for at least two days, believing the deadly algae would die, before consuming them.
Fisheries department quality assurance division head Bonyface Jintony said they were conducting operations to stop people from selling these clams, shellfish and other sea products.
"The department is working closely with the Health Ministry to monitor this problem.
"Action will be taken against those found selling shellfish or clams that put the public health at risk.
"People should be aware of the red tide as the department has already issued an alert," said Bonyface, adding that the toxin in the clams would remain even if they were soaked in fresh water for several days.
He added that recent tests showed the cell algae per litre density was at 100,000 units.
"Anything above 7,000 cell algae per litre is considered critical," said Bonyface.