Food safety when fishing or gathering shellfish
Fishing is a much-loved tradition for many New Zealanders and their families. Before you head out, make sure you are aware of the possible health risks, like biotoxins and pollutants, which can affect fish and shellfish.
Collect only from uncontaminated water
Shellfish are a high-risk food because they can happily live in contaminated water and pick up and store any pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms that cause illness in people), biotoxins, or pollution that are present.
Shellfish are often eaten raw or lightly cooked which does not kill pathogens. No amount of cooking will destroy biotoxins or other chemical contaminants they may have accumulated.
People with low immunity or who are immune-compromised are advised not to eat raw, partially cooked, or undercooked shellfish.
Fish taken from sewage-contaminated water can carry bacteria and viruses that can make you sick when you eat them.
Only collect fish and shellfish from areas where the water is not contaminated in any way, and make sure you handle, store, and cook them properly.
Marine biotoxin warnings
MPI tests shellfish and seawater samples around New Zealand each week to ensure they are not contaminated with biotoxins from blooms of toxic algae. Public warnings are issued when shellfish are unsafe to eat.
Trout fishing near 1080 drops
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working with Fish & Game New Zealand to address concerns that people eating trout might risk exposure to 1080 if the trout have eaten 1080 baits after a DOC aerial pest control operation. DOC asked MPI to assess this risk and to provide advice on a caution period for anglers to ensure food safety.
Advice for anglers
The following advice is based on MPI's latest risk assessment of a scenario where trout eat 1080 baits that may have fallen in a waterway. While the chance of this occurring is minimal, MPI advises anglers to wait 7 days after a 1080 baiting operation to minimise any food safety concerns.
MPI conducted a risk assessment in 2014 based on a scenario where trout eat large quantities of mice poisoned by 1080. The conclusion from that assessment was a very low risk of toxicity to humans from eating the trout.