MPI cautions against taking shellfish in entire Bay of Islands

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has issued a public health warning advising against collecting or eating shellfish harvested from the entire Bay of Islands, from Cape Brett north to Cape Wiwiki.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from this region have shown Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins at levels of concern.

People are advised not to collect or consume shellfish from this area. Shellfish gathered within the last five days could also cause illness so should not be consumed.

Cooking or freezing shellfish does not remove the toxin.

Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten.

Pāua, 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.

Symptoms typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include:

  • numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities (hands and feet)
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • paralysis and respiratory failure and in severe cases, death.

If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from this area, phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16, or seek medical attention immediately.

People are are also advised to contact the local public health unit (NDHB 09 430 4100) and ask for the on-call Health Protection Officer. Keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.

Monitoring of toxin levels will continue and MPI will communicate any changes.

Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets, or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by MPI to ensure it is safe to eat.

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