The Ministry for Primary Industries has issued a public health warning against collecting potentially deadly shellfish in the Bay of Islands, extending to the outer heads between Cape Wiwiki and Cape Brett.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from the Bay of Islands 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.

Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, cat's eyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten. 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.

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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; dizziness; headache; nausea; vomiting; diarrhoea; 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.