Shellfish and seawater samples around New Zealand are tested each week to ensure they are not contaminated with biotoxin from blooms of algae. Public warnings are issued when shellfish are not safe to eat. This page contains information relating to the non-commercial (recreational and traditional) taking of shellfish only.
This page is updated as soon as new information comes to hand. All the warnings on this page are current and remain in force.
8 November 2013
Shellfish toxin warning Extended along Bay of Plenty coastline
Following ongoing shellfish toxin monitoring the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) warning has been extended eastwards along the Bay of Plenty coastline.
The affected area now includes the entire coastline from Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula, south to Waihi Beach, east along the Bay of Plenty coastline to Whakatane, Ohope and Opotiki and further along to, and including, Whangaparaoa near Cape Runaway in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. It also includes all harbours, estuaries and islands along this coastline.
“Ongoing monitoring has shown high levels of paralytic shellfish poison present in shellfish along this coastline. Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or eaten,” says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Neil de Wet.
The health warning applies to all bi-valve shellfish including mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as cat’s eyes, snails and kina (sea urchin). PSP is caused by natural toxins that are produced by algal blooms and accumulate in shellfish that feed on the algae. Shellfish containing toxic levels of paralytic shellfish poison don't look or taste any different from shellfish that are safe to eat. Cooking or freezing the shellfish does not remove the toxin. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but as always, the gut should be removed before cooking or eating.
Eating shellfish affected by paralytic shellfish toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face, hands and feet; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms can start as soon as 1-2 hours after eating toxic shellfish and usually within 12 hours. Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek urgent medical attention.
Monitoring of toxin levels will continue along the coast and any changes in advice will be communicated accordingly. The public can obtain up-to-date information on the toxic shellfish health warning through these channels:
- Phone: 0800 221 555, option 1
- Website: www.ttophs.govt.nz/health_warnings
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/ttophs
- Email alerts for subscribers: www.ttophs.govt.nz/alert
The Health Protection Unit of Northland District Health Board continues to advise people not to consume shellfish from the Hokianga Harbour. This public health warning has been issued due to the persistence of Microcystin Toxins above safe levels in shellfish.
Shellfish in the Hokianga Harbour were tested for Microcystins after a bloom of toxic Cyanobacteria occurred in Lake Omapere which drains into the Hokianga Harbour.
High levels of microcystins are frequently associated with the death of animals consuming contaminated water. Human deaths from consumption on microcystins have not been well reported but it is acutely toxic in animal studies and they are thought to cause liver damage in humans. Human fatalities have also occurred when water used for dialysis of patients with kidney failure has become contaminated.
For further information contact: Northland District Health Board (09) 430 4100
Bay of Plenty shellfish toxin warning extended - 9th October 2012 (still valid as at 11/11/2013)
Following ongoing shellfish toxin monitoring the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxin warning has been extended eastwards to include Whakatane Heads.
The affected area now includes the entire coastline from Tairua (including Tairua Harbour), east along the Bay of Plenty coastline, including Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, to Whakatane Heads. Also included in the warning are Matakana and Motiti islands, and all other inshore islands along this coastline.
“Ongoing monitoring has shown high levels of paralytic shellfish poison present in shellfish along this coastline. People should take note of the areas that still contain high levels of paralytic shellfish poison and avoid collecting shellfish in these areas,” says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jim Miller.
The health warning applies to all bivalve shellfish including mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as catseyes and kina (sea urchin). Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or consumed. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but as always, the gut should be removed before cooking.
Consumption of shellfish affected by the paralytic shellfish toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms usually occur within 12 hours of a person consuming affected shellfish. Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek medical attention.
Monitoring of toxin levels will continue along the coast and any changes will be communicated accordingly. For all health warning updates across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts call 0800 221 555. Further information is available at www.ttophs.govt.nz/health_warnings
For more information please contact:
Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health
Phone: 07 579 8000 and ask to speak to the on call Medical Officer of Health
There are no biotoxin warnings currently in place for the South Island
Warnings about unsafe areas are subject to change. The public should contact their local health protection officers at District Health Boards if they are in doubt about where they should take shellfish.
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