Environmental contamination caused by Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption

The Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted on 9 December 2019. The eruption caused environmental contamination to the area immediately around the island. Follow our food safety advice (updated 23 January 2020) to avoid getting sick. 

Do not eat shellfish or crayfish from around Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand Food Safety advises the public not to eat shellfish or crayfish harvested from the shores of Whakaari/White Island and within a 1km buffer zone extending off the island's coastline. This advice is to protect your health.

Finfish caught in the buffer zone can be eaten but we advise you to limit how much you eat to 1 serving every 1 to 2 weeks.

Following the eruption and ongoing volcanic activity, there may be higher levels of environmental contaminants entering the sea.

You should not eat the following seafood from the area:

  • crayfish
  • mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, cat’s eyes, kina (sea urchin), and all other shellfish.

Cooking shellfish or crayfish will not remove the contaminants.

New Zealand Food Safety will continue to assess the situation around the island and the Bay of Plenty region. We'll update this food safety advice as needed.

Map showing the boundary lines around the island


Other areas of Bay of Plenty, including the mainland coastline

Other than shellfish and crayfish in the buffer zone, New Zealand Food Safety does not expect any increased food safety risks from kaimoana (seafood) in the wider Bay of Plenty region as result of volcanic activity. Shellfish harvested off the mainland coastline is safe to eat, except where there are local shellfish biotoxin alerts.

All the same, we advise you to follow these food safety guidelines when taking kaimoana in the Bay of Plenty:

  • Live, fresh fish and shellfish are best.
  • Fish and shellfish should not be eaten if they are:
    • dead
    • smell like sulphur or smell “off”
    • visibly unwell.

If in doubt, don’t eat the fish or shellfish or feed them to your pets or other animals. Proper handling, storage, and cooking can reduce the risk of getting sick from your catch.

What to do if you feel sick after eating seafood

If you become ill after eating seafood from an area where a public health warning has been issued, either:

  • phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16, or
  • seek medical attention immediately.

You are also advised to contact your nearest public health unit. Keep any leftover kaimoana (seafood) in case it needs to be tested.

Find out more

Coastline iwi authorities contact details – Te Puni Kokiri

Food safety information on gathering kaimoana [PDF, 681 KB]

Check the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Facebook page for latest volcano activity updates

Shellfish biotoxin alerts

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