The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) today extended the public health warning against collecting shellfish on the west coast of the North Island in the Taranaki and Waikato region. The warning now extends from the mouth of Port Waikato southward to Ohawe in the Taranaki region. The alert also includes Aotea and Kawhia Harbours but not Port Waikato itself.
Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from sites in this region have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins above the safe limit of 0.8 mg/kg set by MPI. Anyone eating shellfish from this area is potentially at risk of illness.
Warnings remain in place for the Pelorus Sounds and Akaroa Harbour.
Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten.
Note: cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin.
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
- paralysis and respiratory failure and in severe cases, death.
If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued, 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 and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.
Monitoring of toxin levels will continue and any changes will be communicated accordingly. Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets, or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by MPI to ensure they are safe to eat.
Find out more
- Shellfish biotoxin alert webpage
- Subscribe to shellfish biotoxins to receive email alerts
- Collecting shellfish and keeping them safe [PDF, 1.4 MB]
- Causes and symptoms of toxic shellfish poisoning
- About toxic algal blooms
- Food safety for seafood gatherers booklet [PDF, 688 KB]
Signs will be erected in the affected areas.