A warning has been issued to the public to not collect or eat shellfish in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) issued the health warning today, to take effect between Cape Runaway and Whakatane Heads. This included Ohiwa Harbour.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from the region showed levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxins above the safe limit.

Anyone eating shellfish from this area was potentially at risk of illness.


Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten, MPI said.

Cooking the shellfish would not remove the toxins.

Paua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut was completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut. If the gut was not removed its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process.

MPI said symptoms typically appeared between 10 minutes and three hours after eating and included:

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

MPI advised anyone who became ill after eating shellfish collected from where the public health warning was issued should phone Healthline advice on 0800 61 11 16 or seek medical attention immediately.

MPI also advised people to contact the nearest public health unit and keep any leftover shellfish for testing.

Monitoring of toxin levels would continue and any changes would be announced. Commercially harvested shellfish - sold in shops and supermarkets - was subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by MPI to ensure they were safe to ear.