Health officials are offering some food safety advice as this year’s herring egg harvest opens along a section of Vancouver Island’s east coast.
Hand-gathered herring eggs, known as spawn-on-kelp, are an important traditional seafood for many First Nations, but an outbreak of a cholera strain in 2018 forced closure of the harvest between French Creek and Qualicum Bay.
Island Health says in a news release that lab tests confirm a small group of people contracted the vibrio cholera bacteria last year after eating herring eggs from the affected region.
Officials say the bacteria are a “natural inhabitant” of the marine environment, are unable to produce the toxin found in more severe strains of cholera and are not from poor sanitation or sewage.
Until last year there had been no reported outbreaks, but a Health Canada and B.C. Centre for Disease Control review found salinity, acidity, temperature, sunlight and availability of nutrients can encourage the bacteria.
Water temperature above 10 C and sea water low in salt are two key factors in development of vibrio cholera, the review said.
Not bad for a bunch of southern Ontario boys (that’s in Canada).