Along New Zealand‘s northeast coast there have been concerns over the occurrence of mysteriously infected fish. There have been reported spotting mushy milk-colored flesh fish along the coast. The cause of the situation is still not known but fishers warn that eating such fish could lead to health problems.
The condition was first reported in August 2022 and reports of such fish occurring have been on the rise. According to a nonprofit group LegaSea, the situation worsened this summer.
“On some fishing charter boats, there are more fish with milky flesh than without,” said Trish Rea, a fisher at LegaSea, told Newsweek.
The extent of the damage is not quantifiable at the moment. Reports of the milky fish have come from all corners of the Hauraki Gulf Marine, which ranges over 1.2 million hectares off the coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
LegaSea has been issuing reports and updates on the situation for a while now. The organization has better insight into the issue owing to its partner organization Kai Ika Project, which filet fish for recreational fishers, preserve unwanted fish parts and give them back to the local community where they are valued.
“You can only tell when you cut into them,” Rea said. “It’s most common in snapper because that is the most popular fish brought home to eat by fishers on the northeast coast…but we’re also starting to hear about the condition in other species, including kingfish and tarakihi.”
In a recent Facebook post, LegaSea said that they have received numerous inquiries about the safety of eating such fish. The organization does not advise eating infected fish, however, the government says it’s safe to eat and there haven’t been any reports of anyone getting sick from milky fish.
LegaSea says that the condition of most infected fish is not good. They are thinner than the healthy ones and seem to have stayed in a conditioned environment. This has raised questions about possible starvation and the causes of the lack of food.
“We need to urgently find out what is turning our snapper into marshmallows and find a way to better protect them and the other species in our marine park,” Rea said.
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