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Toxic shellfish return to Hawke’s Bay


31 March 2006

Toxic shellfish return to Hawke’s Bay – coastline from Cape Kidnappers north to Mohaka River mouth closed

Hawke's Bay District Health Board has issued a public warning advising people not to eat shellfish harvested from the Hawke's Bay coastline between Cape Kidnappers and the Mohaka River, due to levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxin being found in shellfish , above the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's safe health limit.

Results from mussels sampled from Pania Reef on the 27th of March have returned with a level of 90 micrograms of toxin per 100 grams of flesh. This is above the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s level at which an area is closed for shellfish collection – (being 80 micrograms per 100 grams of flesh).

Further samples from all Hawke’s Bay areas will continue to be collected, provided sea conditions allow it to be undertaken safely, and the public will be advised of results and changes to the area affected by the PSP toxin.

Kina, mussels, toheroa, pipis, tuatua, oysters and cockles in affected areas should not be eaten.

Paua, crab, and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut. If the gut is not removed its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process.

Cooking affected shellfish does not remove the toxin.

Fish, such as snapper, gurnard, and terakihi are not affected by the algae and are still safe to eat.

It needs to be stressed that anyone eating toxic shellfish in closed areas could be at risk of serious illness.

Symptoms of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning can occur within 12 hours of eating affected seafood and can include:
 Numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities first.
 Difficulty swallowing, or breathing.
 Headache, dizziness, and double vision.

Severe cases may suffer respiratory arrest resulting in death if medical treatment is not immediately available.

“We advise the public not to risk their health by consuming shellfish when a closure is on. We have had anecdotal reports of people consuming shellfish during closures and these people are taking risks with their health. Levels of the toxin in shellfish can fluctuate markedly up, or down, very quickly depending on the level of the toxic algae in the water. The closure limit is designed to take such factors into account” says Noel Watson, HBDHB’s health protection officer.

If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from any Hawke’s Bay area (not just the closed area) they should contact a doctor immediately and also advise HBDHB’s Public Health Unit on (06) 878 1329.

The Public Health Unit is sending information to doctors, community groups and other authorities in the region. Staff are currently putting up warning signs at seafood collection sites, and boat-launching sites in the affected closed area.

Closures of the coastline to shellfish collection due to Paralytic Shellfish Toxin have occurred previously in the Hawke’s Bay region, sometimes for several months each year between 2000 and 2004. This is the first closure since then.

Anyone wanting further information can phone the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's Toxic Shellfish Information Line on (06) 878-1329. There is a pre-recorded message giving the latest sampling results, the status of the closure, and a facility for people to leave their contact details and a message if required.

Information on the closure will be posted and updated on Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s web site www.healthinhawkesbay.co.nz in the Public Health Unit’s area of the site.


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