Sunday, May 19, 2024

Shellfish warning for Marlborough

New Zealand Food Safety is advising the public not to collect or consume shellfish gathered from the inner Queen Charlotte Sound, as well as near Collingwood in Golden Bay, due to the presence of high levels of paralytic shellfish toxins.

Routine tests on mussels from near Waikawa have shown levels of paralytic shellfish toxins three times higher than the safe limit. The warning extends from Anakiwa, out to West Head and Dieffenbach Point.

In addition to the Queen Charlotte Sound warning, the levels of paralytic shellfish toxins in mussels farmed near Collingwood have risen in recent weeks and are nearly at the safe limit. Commercial harvesting from the mussel farms have stopped and the public are warned that shellfish gathered from the shore could also have elevated levels of toxins.

See the map of the warning for Marlborough

“Please do not gather and eat shellfish from these areas because anyone doing so could get sick,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general, Vincent Arbuckle.

“Affected shellfish include bivalve shellfish such as mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles and scallops, as well as pūpū (cat’s eyes), Cook’s turban and kina (sea urchin).

“Cooking the shellfish does not remove the toxin, so shellfish from the affected areas should not be eaten.”

Symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning usually appear within 10 minutes to 3 hours of eating and may include:

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

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.

Finfish are not affected by this public health warning, but we advise gutting the fish and discarding the liver before cooking.

New Zealand Food Safety says it has had no notifications of associated illness.

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.

“New Zealand Food Safety is monitoring shellfish in the region and will notify the public of any changes to the situation,” says Mr Arbuckle.

Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by New Zealand Food Safety to ensure they are safe to eat.

Find out more about how to safely gather and consume shellfish

For more information, email

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