Conflicting advice on whether to eat fish killed by toxic algae has sparked fears that the red tide crisis might be mishandled in the same way as the initial stages of the bird flu outbreak. Officials at the Department of Health called for the dead fish to be destroyed while Agriculture and Fisheries colleagues insisted they were safe to eat. The red tide continued to lay waste to fish stocks and five beaches were closed to swimmers yesterday as fears emerged it could take days or weeks to remove the rotting carcasses from the sea. 'Our concern is that these fish have to be collected instead of being sold at markets,' a Health Department spokesman said yesterday. She said people should not eat gills or intestines of fish and should be especially wary of fish being sold cheaply at markets. The head and gills are considered a delicacy. She said there was no need for a general health alert, which would be an 'over-reaction'. 'If people get sick from eating toxins we will give our advice [to the contrary],' she said. Agriculture and Fisheries Department acting assistant director Joseph Sham Chun-hung cited the same Department of Health tests when he said: '[The fish] are fit for human consumption. The only concern is the dead fish have to be frozen quickly, otherwise they will rot. As to the risk to swimmers, I don't know.' Christine Loh Kung-wai, a Legco candidate on Hong Kong Island, accused the Government of complacency and said it was essential the dead fish should not be eaten. 'We've heard this before. First, they're saying let's eat chicken. And then they say let's not eat chicken,' she said, referring to the bird flu crisis at the end of last year when contradictory advice was given before the Government slaughtered thousands of birds. Ms Loh was also worried about the disposal of the fish which continued yesterday with Fisheries workers going to farms to collect dead ones. About 1,500 tonnes of fish - half the annual stock the Government says is worth $80 million - has been killed so far and though only 20 tonnes was collected on Sunday, Mr Sham said the collection of all the dead fish would only take two days. It has affected more than 22 out of 26 fish farms. Ms Loh said the Government action had been slow. 'The Government should at this stage be able to say what action they are taking and how they are disposing of the dead fish. 'This is what surprises me. They knew about dead fish and fish dying back in March, when they should have done something. And now you have to get rid of the dead fish fairly soon. They should have thought of ways of disposal.' Dr John Tse Wing-ling, of the Democratic Party, said he feared a repeat of the bird flu slaughter where chickens were dumped in landfill sites. 'I don't think they have any option but to do what they did with the chickens - to dump them in the tips. I think the Government is at a loss,' he said. Fish traders upped their estimated losses to $120 million yesterday. A representative, Wong Yung-kan, said: 'The fish that survived earlier have now died. Therefore, the sum must be bigger.' The tide appeared in Middle Bay, Repulse Bay, Shek O, Chung Hom Kok Beach and South Bay yesterday.