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East Coast Open to Shellfish Collection

Media Release

Wednesday 1 October 2003

East Coast Open to Shellfish Collection

The East Coast is now open to the collection of shellfish for consumption, Tairawhiti District Health’s Principal Health Protection Officer, Alan Hall said today.

The announcement comes three and half months after the entire East Coast, from Whareongaonga Lagoon to the East Cape, was closed due to unsafe levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxin.

While shellfish samples from Gisborne Wharf and Wherowhero Lagoon had been clear of toxin for around three weeks, Anaura Bay samples had until last week, returned with PSP levels above the safe limit.

“Shellfish flesh testing carried out on September 23 in Anaura Bay showed toxin levels have come down to within the Ministry of Health’s safe limit.

“We were cautious about re-opening the entire Coast until all areas were clear. The sea’s natural tidal and current flows often mean the toxin can be spread. Also, some types of shellfish, hold the toxin longer than others.”

Mr Hall said the re-opening would be great news for people in the district who enjoy collecting shellfish for consumption.

“Now that summer appears to have finally arrived, people will be looking forward to spending time at beaches and lagoons, so the all-clear result has been timely.”

Mr Hall commended the people of Tairawhiti for their sensible response during the East Coast closure.

“Throughout the period of the closure, no cases of Toxic Shellfish Poisoning were reported to the Public Health Unit from the public, or by general practitioners.”

Mr Hall said someone with a severe case of PSP from eating toxic shellfish, could have suffered respiratory arrest resulting in death if treatment was not immediately available.

Mr Hall said while the East Coast closure was in place, the Public Health Unit regularly tested the seawater to monitor the levels of toxin-producing organisms. Shellfish flesh testing was also regularly carried out.

Over the summer months, the Public Health Unit will continue to test seawater and shellfish samples on a weekly basis.

Regular sampling of seawater and shellfish will also continue in Hawkes Bay. The Hawkes Bay coastline was opened to shellfish collection for consumption on September 8 following a three-month closure.

For more information on the re-opening contact Tairawhiti District Health Public Health Unit on (06) 867 9119 or after hours through the Gisborne Hospital switchboard on (06) 869 0500.


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