Marine experts are warning people to stay away from toxic pufferfish that have washed up at Mount Maunganui.

The Bay of Plenty Times spotted seven spiked pufferfish, two small birds and a little blue penguin washed up on the Mount's Main Beach between Mt Drury and the base of Mauao.

Top Tauranga marine ecologist Professor Chris Battershill said the washed-up fish were related to the poisonous Japanese pufferfish fugu.

One of the seven pufferfish that were washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak
One of the seven pufferfish that were washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak

"The spines are sharp. The liver and other parts of the fish are very toxic," Battershill said. "Dogs shouldn't be allowed near them either."

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Battershill said it was unusual for so many puffer fish to wash up on the beach, but suggested it had something to do with the recent storm that lashed the coastline.

"When there has been a lot of strong northeasterlies, and heavy waves, [the puffer fish] get tired and stressed and blow themselves up a bit, which gives them issues when there are heavy swells coming in," Battershill said.

"They get exhausted."

Seven of these pufferfish were found washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak Photo / George Novak
Seven of these pufferfish were found washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak Photo / George Novak

John Cockrem, a penguin biologist at the University of Waikato's coastal marine field station in Tauranga, said it was not unusual to see birdlife washed up on the beach at this time of year.

He said some birds washed ashore after the big storm battered the Bay this month.

"Fledglings have the hardest time learning to swim, and we do find little blue penguins washed up on the beach regularly," Cockrem said.

"We have had a lot of strong northeasterly winds so that would be flowing birds along the coast. It doesn't seem anything out of the ordinary."

Cockrem encouraged people to contact the Western Bay Wildlife Trust if they spotted dead birds washed up on the shore.

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Jim Miller supported Battershill's advice to keep away from the washed-up pufferfish.

"Toi Te Ora Public Health has been in touch with Bay of Plenty Regional Council [which is] in the process of removing the fish," he said.

Pufferfish have also been reported at Waihi Beach and at Whangapoua beach near the Coromandel.

Pufferfish facts:
- The pufferfish toxin is called Tetrodotoxin (TTX)
- Related to poisonous Japanese fugu puffer fish
- Their spines are sharp
- The liver and other parts of the fish are very toxic
- Do not touch them
- Do not let your dogs near them

This little blue penguin was found washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak
This little blue penguin was found washed up on Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak